Rarely has Cummins enjoyed such a successful day in the red ball format that didn’t involve him tearing an opposing batting lineup to shreds with the ball himself, but everything the Aussie captain touched seemed to turn to gold on day one of the Boxing Day Test at the MCG.
Cummins is still extremely new into the role, captaining in just his 12th Test match, but his attacking flare has slowly but surely started to shine through, and his first decision of the day was evidence of this.
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The 29-year-old created a bit of history at the toss when he raised eyebrows by inserting South Africa in to bat for the second straight Test, becoming the first Australian captain to do so in an home summer since the 1999-00 season.
It was a decision which shocked his counterpart Dean Elgar, who was stunned at the toss. Elgar was not the only South African surprised by Cummins’ call.
“I think going on what normally happens here and the look of the wicket, I think winning the toss you normally look to bat first,” South African keeper Kyle Verreynne said after day one.
“If you flipped the coin over, I suppose they’ve bowled really nicely at us in the last game and they probably wanted to have a crack at our batters early on. That’s probably where the decision comes from.”
It was ultimately a pair of collapses, one of 3-1 before lunch and one of 5-10 in the final session that doomed South Africa, and both came following inspired bowling changes from Cummins.
Save for the run out of Dean Elgar, the other three South African wickets that fell in the opening session came within two overs of Cummins bringing the eventual wicket-taker into the attack.
Similarly, after Verreynne and Marco Jansen had batted the Proteas back into the game with a 112-run stand, Cummins turned to Green, who struck in his third over of the new spell.
Green had bowled sparingly so far in the Australian summer, managing just three overs in Brisbane last week during the first Test.
The 23-year-old all-rounder had not taken multiple wickets in a Test innings since the day-night Ashes Test in January, and turned to his skipper in the lead-up to Boxing Day.
The advice he received proved to be pivotal in the five-wicket haul.
”I had a really good chat to Patty the day before,” he said after the day’s play.
“He finds his rhythm when he bowls on the fourth and fifth stump and gets it through to the keeper. When it’s kissing through and the keeper’s taking it at a pretty good level, that’s when you gauge how you’re going.
“If you’re bowling too straight and they keep padding it back to you, you don’t really know how you’re going and how you’re feeling.
“There were a couple of really good pointers that he gave me that I’ll take into the future.”
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It was telling that following the advice from Cummins, that it was Green himself who helped vindicate his skipper’s brave call at the toss.
On the back of such a strong start to the Test summer, it seems insane that there was questions regarding Cummins’ role as skipper during the lead-up to the West Indies and South Africa series.
Incredibly, Cummins was the only Australian bowler to go wicketless, returning figures of 0-30 off 14 overs.
Rarely will he enjoy as impactful a day in Test cricket while failing to strike himself.
Sterner tests lay ahead for Australia, who have preyed on two brittle batting outfits so far this summer, but bold calls such as the one made today by Cummins will help his side go a long way towards wins abroad in India and England.
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