Is it possible that an 18 year old debutant could be catapulted into the Australian cricket team and in just one match, become the main strike bowler? It is hard to believe, even for the faithful but perhaps in the case of Pat Cummins, it is true. Look at the scoreboard, look at the TV, watch the play, read Cricinfo or listen to the ABC – they will all tell you the same thing. At end the fourth day of the 2nd Test in Johannesburg, Cummins was the only reason that Australia has a sniff of victory.
If it were not for Cummins, you would have to think that South Africa would have batted Australia out of the match. They came close anyway. Cummins took 6-79 and stood tall amongst his more experienced team mates. He made the early break through, accounted for most of the top order, broke the two key partnerships of the innings and polished off the tail. That’s impressive but it is the way in which it was accomplished has created the excitement. Cummins not only has raw pace and ability but his bowling shows a control and maturity not evidenced in some of his partners.
Cummins’ emergence puts even more pressure on Johnson. Johnson himself emerged as a super star on the last South African tour, almost three years ago. The fact is he has very rarely delivered since then and he must have retained his place on the hope that he could deliver his best, and because there were not a lot of other options. Pat Cummins may have come into the team because of Ryan Harris’s injury, but one thing is sure, when Rhino is fit, it will not be Cummins who makes way. One wonders what Australia could achieve with Harris, Watson and Cummins all fit and firing. And one may have to keep on wondering, I suspect.
The media is now drooling at the series coming down to the wire. I agree that the match is well enough poised but Australia is still almost 200 runs behind. Just two wickets in the first session of day five and it will be almost curtains.
One thing Ponting has done, aside from keep Australia in the game, is made life difficult for the selectors. The first major test for them will be how they handle Ponting’s exit from the game. He has had a dismal tour and before this innings, he had made their lives easy – a failure in this innings and we were destined not to see Ponting in Australia again. It seemed to me almost predictable that he would make some runs in this innings and create a headache for the selectors. Ironically, his replacement, Usman Khawaja finally made a statement, as the two shared a partnership to resurrect the innings.
It will be very interesting to see how this match pans out and how the Australian team shapes up for the home summer.