Pat Cummins’ Coming Of Age
The Australian cricket team is in a state of flux after the recent ball-tampering scandal or ‘sandpaper gate’ if you prefer. The captain and vice-captain are both gone and to compound their problems further, strike bowler Mitchell Starc has suffered a stress fracture, to add to his ever-growing list of injuries.
On top of that, they have been beaten in the final Test Match against South Africa, losing by the fourth biggest margin, in terms of runs, in history. There was one positive to come from that series and the Ashes that preceded it.
Pat Cummins has gone from being a bowler that was considered game to game due to his own injury history to being one of the leaders of the attack. He was Steve Smith’s, and now Tim Paine’s, go-to man when in need of a wicket.
Now 24-years-old, the Sydney born fast bowler seems to have been around for a long time having made his Test debut back in November 2011 on a tour of South Africa. His debut Test Match at Johannesburg was just his fourth first-class match and the raw fast bowler claimed six second innings wickets, the man of the match award and became the second youngest player to claim six wickets in an innings, behind Enamul Haque JR of Bangladesh.
In the years since his scintillating debut, Cummins has only managed to play in 14 Tests and 55 International limited overs games. He is a player with so much talent but hampered by a litany of injuries, most notably a stress fracture of the back.
In all, it was 1946 days (five years three months and 27 days) before he made it back into the Australian Test side when they faced India in early 2017.
Since that comeback, Cummins has become the leader of the bowling attack. Only Nathan Lyon has claimed more victims (65) than the 59 wickets claimed by the fast bowler. A look beyond just the number of wickets shows that Cummins is, in fact, picking his wickets up at a better average (24.66 runs per wicket compared to Lyon’s 28.98).
This is also the case for the number of balls per wicket. Cummins is striking at 50.1, while Lyon’s off-spin is getting a wicket every 63.6 balls. Only Starc can beat that strike rate over the same period by claiming a wicket every 47.9 balls but he only played in seven Tests in that same time.
Cummins bullied England during the Ashes. His combinations of skiddy bounce off the pitch and his ability to bowl at over 140km/h consistently left England’s tail end cowering and he ensured that lower order runs rarely materialised.
However, it was not just the likes of Broad and Anderson that Cummins removed from the crease. He bombarded Mark Stoneman with a bouncer barrage that has opened an obvious vulnerability to the short ball while coming around the wicket and swinging the ball late had Dawid Malan in trouble a number of times throughout the series.
In terms of mechanics, Cummins might be close to the ideal fast bowler. His athletic run up builds momentum until he explodes at the point of delivery with a strong over the top action, a wild contrast to his teammate Starc. This action means the ball hits the pitch hard and seems to almost gather pace, hurrying batsmen. This is a vital skill on placid pitches or when the ball goes soft.
Nearly seven years on from his breakthrough debut Test, Cummins returned to the Wanderers. He again tormented his hosts as he claimed nine wickets in the match, the rest of the bowling attack claimed just seven between them.
It is clear now that in the absence of Smith and Warner, Cummins is the ace in the pack. He now has to carry the load of this team.
The parallels in his two Johannesburg performances are apparent but maybe this time his body can take the strain. Maybe this time it can be the launch pad to the career he seemed destined to have after bursting onto the scene all those years ago.
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