Pat Cummins shines in Test return with brainy bowling

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

By Ronan O'Connell, Ronan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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    In the space of a brilliant six-over spell against India yesterday, young Australian quick Pat Cummins showed why the selectors rushed him into the Test team.

    On a benign surface which offered nothing to the fast bowlers, Cummins used his underrated cunning to work over India’s most in-form batsman KL Rahul, who was threatening to canter to a big ton.

    Analysis of the 23-year-old fast bowler tends to focus heavily on his unsettling pace and bounce, often overlooking Cummins’ impressive cricketing brain.

    The manner in which he kept the Indian batsmen guessing during that six-over burst was as clever as anything I’ve seen from a Test paceman in recent years.

    Cummins swiftly summed up the conditions. He recognised that simply bowling flat out and looking to burst through the batsman’s defence was not likely to bear fruit on this sleepy surface.

    So he made his sharpest deliveries more surprising and therefore threatening by varying his pace and ball release. Using tactics ripped from T20, the format in which Cummins has the most experience, he employed a befuddling array of variations.

    In between searing deliveries in the 145-to-148kmh range, he sent down off cutters, leg cutters, cross seamers, dipping, floating changeups, and slower-ball bouncers.

    Rahul was patently unsettled by Cummins’ approach. When Cummins started that spell Rahul was flying along on 52 from 71 balls, and the opening stand was getting away from Australia.

    Rahul was stopped dead in his tracks by Cummins’ trickery, scoring only 3 from 17 balls against him in this spell before falling victim to the young quick. In the end it was variation which undid Rahul, with Cummins rolling his fingers across a short ball which reared up at the Indian strokemaker, kissed his glove and lobbed to keeper Matt Wade.

    It was just reward for Cummins who was the pick of the Australian bowlers. The wicket of Rahul was incredibly important on a surface which looks likely to break up on days four and five but right now is brimming with runs.

    It should have come as little surprise that Cummins bowled so well, for his expansive talent has never been in doubt.

    Pat Cummins Cricket 2017

    The questions, always, centre around his durability. There were encouraging signs in the way he powered through that long spell. At no point did Cummins look tired or straining for extra pace. His final delivery of that spell scorched through at 145kmh.

    Any discussion about Cummins is littered with ‘ifs’. His immensely intelligent and skilful display yesterday underlined that, if he can stay healthy, he will quickly become a quality Test bowler. Australia will desperately need him to bowl just as well again for the remainder of this Test as they face a stern challenge to force a positive result.

    At 1-120 India are well placed to match or surpass Australia’s good first innings total of 451. The hosts will draw confidence from the fact that, in their recent home series against England, they twice secured innings victories despite England making solid first innings totals.

    In the fifth Test of that series, England made 477 batting first only for the hosts to pile up 7-759 and turn the match on its head. They will plan to do just that again here in Ranchi.

    There are, however, two clear differences between that situation and this one.

    Firstly, Australia’s bowling attack has showed in this series that it is far more threatening than England’s proved to be in India. Secondly, India’s fifth Test batting heroics against England came in the deadest of dead rubbers against a side whose spirit was broken.

    Here, by comparison, India need to make 500-plus under immense pressure – they know that a poor batting effort could hand the Border-Gavaskar Trophy to Australia.

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco

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    The Crowd Says (32)

    • March 18th 2017 @ 5:53am
      lara said | March 18th 2017 @ 5:53am | ! Report

      i really did say ,last week, that you aussies need to start being optmistic about cummins.I also did say that i think this kid is actually your 2nd best bowler after hazlewood,(starc had one good series in sri lanka but hasnt lived up that).Nonetheless the game is still in the balance and im tipping cummins to get another key wicket tomorow , then allow the spinners to run thru the lower order ….

      • March 18th 2017 @ 8:50am
        Rob JM said | March 18th 2017 @ 8:50am | ! Report

        On stats Starc is only the 5th best fast bowling option.
        Behrendorf is the best, followed by Hazlewood and Cummins with Pattinson and Starc Bringing up the rear.
        Nice situation to be in if they can keep enough of them fit.

        • March 18th 2017 @ 10:14am
          Matth said | March 18th 2017 @ 10:14am | ! Report

          To be fair more of Starc and Pattinson’s first class matches have been in tests, so their stats are better than they look. All 5 are up there though. The key is the right combination that compliments each orher

        • March 18th 2017 @ 1:54pm
          Basil said | March 18th 2017 @ 1:54pm | ! Report

          Pretty sure on stats that Sayers is in very much in the top 5 …. Oh wait, he’s South Australian.

        • March 18th 2017 @ 8:23pm
          John Erichsen said | March 18th 2017 @ 8:23pm | ! Report

          Discarding test figures to provide a fair comparison, the first class averages are –
          Pattinson 22.23
          Behrendorff 22.87
          Sayers 23.62
          Hazlewood 24.12
          Starc 25.91
          Cummins 28.25

    • March 18th 2017 @ 7:43am
      Adsa said | March 18th 2017 @ 7:43am | ! Report

      He looked good Ronan, I was a bit sceptical about picking him but enjoyed watching him bowl. Here’s hoping he has a good spell today and support from the other end.

    • March 18th 2017 @ 8:08am
      qwetzen said | March 18th 2017 @ 8:08am | ! Report

      STRAYS:

      One of the worlds’, and Kiwis in particular for some reason, claims about Australian sport is that we’re super quick to make; “X is a great player. Best in the world.” genre statements.

      I heard somewhere that before Cummins played his 2nd Test he’d gotten more money from CA than AB did in his career.

      Is Maxwell going to get a bowl at all in this Test? (And if not, I’d assume someone will ask this at the presser)

      If they all stay fit for the Ashes (history says ‘Unlikely’) it’s going to be interesting to see which of Starc, Hazlewood, Cummins & Pattinson misses out. Those first couple of Shield rounds are going to be willing.

      I was looking hard, but couldn’t spot anyone in the Oz dug-out who was just going through the motions of clapping Maxwell’s 100. Everybody looked genuinely pleased.

      Micheal Clarke is really starting to grate in the commsbox. He’s nearly attained the Nasser Hussein level of Immaculate Captaincy.

      Another tension-building day looms for D3. Let’s hope that the pitch starts to fall apart.

      • Roar Rookie

        March 18th 2017 @ 11:15am
        Tana Mir said | March 18th 2017 @ 11:15am | ! Report

        I’ve been waiting for Maxi to get a fair go for a while, and in his 4th Test he scores a gem that could win us a series in India. I stood up and applauded his immaculate 100 were he outscored the best batsman in the world, and fought back tears not because I’m a die hard fan, but because this bloke has been mistreated at so many fronts, and it’s a know fact that he is a wonderful bloke.

        • March 18th 2017 @ 11:40am
          Rob said | March 18th 2017 @ 11:40am | ! Report

          I wasn’t this proud of a batsmen innings since Agar’s 99 against England. For Australia to pick a succession of vastly inferior batsmen in the number 6 position before giving Maxwell a real opportunity is mind blowing. This is first bat at 6 and 3 years since his debut. During the World Cup in 2015 he out shone Warner and Smith in home conditions with the bat.
          After Australia was humiliated in the Test in Sri Lanka he was flown in and belted the Sri Lankan bowling attack for a World Record 145. Then they pick Ferguson, Mitch Marsh and Madison?

          • March 18th 2017 @ 12:11pm
            Art Vanderlay said | March 18th 2017 @ 12:11pm | ! Report

            I agree with this but TBF he was shafted badly by Victoria leaving him out of the first Shield round so it would have been difficult for the Test selectors to pick him from grade.

          • March 18th 2017 @ 1:56pm
            Basil said | March 18th 2017 @ 1:56pm | ! Report

            I felt the same when SOK took 12 in the first Test.

    • March 18th 2017 @ 8:33am
      Nudge said | March 18th 2017 @ 8:33am | ! Report

      That spell from Cummins was nothing short of incredible. In truth, he made Hazlewood look second rate

      • March 18th 2017 @ 9:53am
        Sideline said | March 18th 2017 @ 9:53am | ! Report

        I think Hazlewood struggles a bit on lifeless pitches like this. He can still keep the runs down, but without extreme pace or many variation he doesn’t really get the results we have come to expect.

        • March 18th 2017 @ 10:16am
          Matth said | March 18th 2017 @ 10:16am | ! Report

          Agree, on these pitches he is best supporting a strike bowler.

          He may come into his own later on when the wicket starts to deteriorate, like when he took 6 in the least test

          • March 18th 2017 @ 10:51am
            Sideline said | March 18th 2017 @ 10:51am | ! Report

            Yeah definitely. When the pitch starts to offer variation his nagging persistence can be very dangerous.

    • March 18th 2017 @ 8:49am
      James Jackson said | March 18th 2017 @ 8:49am | ! Report

      The length of the spell was pretty startling, considering he was flown in and hasn’t had the same prep as others made it even more impressive. Smith’s choice to continue bowling him was a sign of faith

    • March 18th 2017 @ 8:49am
      Brasstax said | March 18th 2017 @ 8:49am | ! Report

      My two cents…

      1. I cannot understand this constant reference to the pitches in the series offering nothing to fast bowlers. It is as difficult if not more to face an accurate fast bowler on a track with variable bounce as it is on a bouncy or seaming wicket. The probing spells by fast bowlers of both teams thus far in this series bears this out.

      In fact, Hazelwood was getting the ball to tail in prodigiously using reverse swing as early as the 16th over of India’s reply. I think this notion of the pitch being good for fast bowling only if it bouncy or seaming is getting old.

      2. I think Smith missed a trick big time yesterday on the field with defensive field placements. The series is tied 1-1 with all the pressure on India to retain the trophy and after having won an important toss and getting a decent enough score, we have a deep point and a deep square leg in the 10th over which is ridiculous.

      • March 18th 2017 @ 10:45am
        qwetzen said | March 18th 2017 @ 10:45am | ! Report

        Brasstax said: “I cannot understand this constant reference to the pitches in the series offering nothing to fast bowlers.”

        That needs a bit of a tweak. It’s more accurate to say that the pitches have offered more to the spinners than the quicks. Fast bowlers need bounce. It’s nearly impossible to get a batter caught in the cordon, where quicks predominantly take their wickets, when the ball is staying low. And then there’s that proof/pudding thing. Spinners have taken 70% of the bowlers wickets so far.

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