Cummins and Australia puzzle over lack of old-ball help

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Australia’s in-form fast man Pat Cummins admits the home side’s pace trio has spent time in discussion over why they have not been able to match India’s old-ball success so far in a series due to resume at the SCG on Thursday, but denied that reverse swing played a disproportionate part in last summer’s Ashes bout.
Statistics revealed by ESPNcricinfo have shown that the Australians are struggling to have anything like the same impact as India’s pace bowlers when the ball is aged 40 to 80 overs old, while also proving far less effective over the same period as they were during the home series win against England in 2017-18.
That series has been subject to plenty of questions in light of the subsequent Newlands ball-tampering scandal, and the Australian captain Tim Paine stated earlier this summer that he knew the team needed to be squeaky clean in terms of ball management given the amount of attention that would be on them. Cummins, who has been Australia’s leading bowler, said numerous theories had been floated as to why India have been more incisive at these times, from his choice of balls to use to the abrasiveness of the pitches and squares at various points in each Test.
“We spoke about it a little bit. The other two bowlers blame me because I pick the ball out of the box and they reckon I picked a bad one,” he joked. “But it’s just one of those things, I think on day one and two when we bowled the [MCG] wicket wasn’t as abrasive and that makes a big difference.
“We tried bowling some cross-seamers and it just didn’t seem to scuff up as much as a couple days later. Sometimes you get a ball that goes, sometimes it doesn’t, no doubt they bowled really well with it, present a really good seam. And probably more suited to those conditions. To be honest I don’t really remember getting too much reverse swing last summer in the Ashes. I didn’t feel like it played a massive part.”
By contrast, Australia have performed far better than India with the newer ball, gaining more conventional swing and movement off the seam when the ball is 0-40 overs old. “I know last summer, traditional swing, there was pretty much none,” Cummins said. “And we thought reverse swing was probably the only way we’re going to get side[ways] movement, and it didn’t really happen at all last summer either.
Pat Cummins celebrates his first five-wicket haul at home Getty Images
“So we know we’re going to be out there for quite a while bowling, it’s a really good team. The wicket’s pretty dry. So reverse swing’s a pretty big factor, especially I’d say for the other two, Joshy [Hazlewood] presents a really good seam, we know what [Mitchell] Starcy does, but it just hasn’t been a massive player so far.”
Ahead of the final Test in Sydney, where Australia must win to preserve a long-standing unbeaten record in home series against India, Cummins stated that the inclusion of Mitchell Marsh as a fifth bowler had made a major difference to the ability of himself, Starc and Hazlewood to be ready in time for the New Year’s Test. Marnus Labuschagne was the only addition to the squad, and looms as the equivalent option to Marsh should the pitch show signs of taking spin.
“A huge advantage,” Cummins said of Marsh. “It felt like a long few days out there, but when you’ve gone the whole Test match, I think I bowled 45, Josh bowled probably 40 and Starcy a little bit less than that, and to be honest that’s the same number of overs you’d budget for most Test matches. So having Mitch there played a massive role. It meant that we come into this Test not feeling too overdone, he was our most economical bowler the whole time which really built up pressure, and he could easily have had a couple of wickets. So I think he did his role brilliantly down there.”