Mitchell Starc’s injury before the Ranchi Test opened the doors for Pat Cummins to play his first Test for six years. Finally, his time to don the Baggy Green again had come after his debut in 2011 as a teenager against South Africa in Johannesburg, where he impressed with a haul of 6/79 to help Australia achieve victory. (India vs Australia, day 3 report)
From that Test in Johannesburg to the Ranchi game, Cummins’ career was a story of injuries, more injuries and question marks on whether his body was equipped for the rigours of Test cricket. However, after 25 overs and a haul of 4/59, Cummins has overcome all the frustration of the last six years, putting in a performance that has not allowed India to dictate terms on a slow wicket in Ranchi. (India vs Australia, day 3 scorecard)
Cummins’ exhibition of bowling on Day 2 and 3 of the Ranchi Test has been sensational. After a rusty first over, the 23-year-old showed glimpses of what was to come when he hustled opener KL Rahul, India’s in-form batsman, with a slow bouncer that reared sharply. On a pitch not providing plenty of assistance, Cummins’ combination of extra pace, hitting the deck hard and using variations was the catalyst for checking India’s progress.
After regularly beating Rahul with the leg-cutter, Cummins forced him to fend a bouncer, and glove a catch. It gave the Australian pacer his first wicket after 1,944 days.
Cummins takes spotlight
On Day 3, Cummins took the second new ball and struck with the third delivery, tempting Virat Kohli with a full and wide delivery outside off-stump. The Indian skipper edged it to second slip, departing for his fifth low score in this series. Virat Kohli’s scores so far in this series are 0, 13, 12, 15 and 6.
Cummins exploited the pitch wonderfully and troubled Ajinkya Rahane by varying the length. In the 92nd over, Cummins again used the slow bouncer and Rahane, under pressure, looked to ramp it over third man but edged it to ‘keeper Matthew Wade.
In addition to the clever change of pace and bouncers, Cummins also found reverse swing and made life difficult for Ravichandran Ashwin. Persistence pays and Cummins got Ashwin to fend a bouncer, claiming his fourth wicket.
Cummins, Hazlewood keep Australia in the game
If Cummins was getting all the success, it was because Josh Hazlewood was not giving anything away at the other end. Hazlewood’s figures of 31-9-66-1 are valuable considering how he dried up the runs. Among the Australian bowlers in the team, he has the best economy rate and his spells to India’s top four was sensational.
Against Murali Vijay, he conceded eight runs in the six overs he bowled to India’s opening batsman. Against Pujara, he conceded only 37 runs in 15 overs. Pujara’s strike-rate of 37 is the second-lowest and it was this spell which ensured India would score only 240 runs on Day 3. Hazlewood and Cummins combined well but Pujara’s century ensured it was not entirely Australia’s day.
As a young fast bowler, Cummins would have hoped for a comeback in conditions that favoured his bowling. Ranchi is far removed from a pace paradise, but the Aussie tearaway was determined to show the world he is no one-Test wonder.