Australia have always had their faith inclined towards having pace-led bowling attack, especially in Test cricket. However, just because Bangladesh was a part of the sub-continent and considering the slower tracks there, they were adamant that pitches were spin-friendly and hence made their selection around it. When Josh Hazlewood got injured in the first Test, they called spinner Steve O’Keefe from Australia for the Chittagong Test instead of roping in another fast bowler Jackson Bird who already was the in the squad. To Australia’s great delight, Hazlewood’s injury turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the young pacer Pat Cummins finally proved he was a well worth the long wait.
Had Hazlewood been fit and Australia would go with the spin strategy, Cummins might not have played the Chittagong Test.
In the testing conditions of heat and humidity in Chittagong, Cummins did struggle on the first day but came back fighting on the third and fourth day when Bangladesh batted for the second time. He passed in the ultimate physical test in Chittagong at unbearable temperatures with flying colours and gave glimpses of being a young precious asset of the Australia Test side, that have a huge Ashes Series coming up later in the year. He bowled at 140Km/hr on the fourth day; he swung and seamed the ball in the conditions that were suiting the spinners more, as Nathan Lyon on the other end was dismantling the Bangladeshi line-up.
“He really cranked it up today. He was certainly bowling some really good pace, which was really nice to see,” Captain Steve Smith said after Australia squared the two-Test series 1-1 with a win in the Chittagong Test by seven wickets.
“He’s still learning his body and learning at this level. The more he plays, the more he’s going to get better. He’s just an exceptional talent and someone that’s going to be a valuable option for this team hopefully for a long time,” Smith added.
In the first innings, Cummins went wicket-less when he wrestled against the tough weather conditions to survive on the field; he picked two crucial scalps in the second innings and ended with figures of 2 for 27 in 11 overs. Maybe the numbers don’t reflect what kind of impact Cummins made in the Chittagong track on the fourth day, but the experts already see a champion-like bowler in the making. Within no time after the end of the Test, comparisons to Asia-dominant pacers like Dale Steyn, Glenn McGrath, and Malcolm Marshal had begun.
Australia were without the services of their regular spearhead Mitchell Starc but Cummins’s influence regrouped the Australians in their strength – pace- and that left many to wonder what would it be like when Starc and Cummins bowled from either end in Asia. Starc, having played eight Tests in Asia has 33 wickets to his name. On the other hand, Cummins has played four Tests, out of which two were without Starc (Bangladesh tour).
In the absence of Starc, Cummins took the charge well on his hand and was successful for quite a lot of time. On a dry and dusty pitch in Chittagong that had been expected to heavily help spin, Cummins took just five balls to strike, dismissing Soumya Sarker with a well-pitched delivery which was caught by Peter Handscomb at gully. Cummins, being as aggressive as ever, then almost put Mehidy Hasan out of the game with a brutal short ball that smashed his thumb and then banged into his helmet grill.
He also chipped in with an outstanding outfield catch to hand Nathan Lyon his fifth wicket and it was again obvious that Australia has a serious cricketer in the making.
These instances sent out loud and clear warning to the English side when they fly down to Australia in summer and lock horns in the first Test at Gabba. That had similar conditions and now that Cummins has shown that he can lead the pace attack, his place is certainly on the cards along with Starc, Hazlewood and James Pattinson, provided he recovers to complete Australia’s pace attack for the Ashes.