I lay in bed last night watching this to the end. I thought it was all over when Punter went out. Then when Hussey was given out LBW I thought that was probably it too. But then the enigmatic Johnson came in and played as he is perfectly capable of doing, but so rarely does. His was a crucial innings. A flurry of wickets towards the end brought Cummins to the crease, from which point there was only ever going to be one result.
If you believe in fairy-tales then Patrick Cummins is your sweetheart right now. Eighteen years old, playing his test match, he takes 6-79 in the second innings to give Australia a chance and then comes in to hit the winning runs. Talk about charmed.
We’re going to be hearing a lot about Cummins in the years to come. It’s a dramatic debut, and there’s a little of the Dennis Lillee’s about him I think. Different personalities, but they both bowl(ed) fast, and I think Cummins will likely become a great bowler as Dennis was (the greatest) – in fact I think Cummins will take over 400 test wickets for Oz and will be the best in the world within a few years. High praise I guess, but the one attribute he’s shown in this test match is the ability to make things happen. He enters the fray and changes the course of the match. Dennis Lillee was very much like that. It’s an intangible skill, but so valuable, and one of the things that made Dennis Lillee (and Shane Warne) such a magnetic and charismatic figure. Events parted for him; hopefully they will for years to come for Cummins also.
Back to the match and it is a great victory. I’m not quite sure how it happened. On paper I think South Africa is the better team, and certainly has the better attack. Playing at home against an injury depleted Australia coming off a humiliating loss, South Africa always really looked more likely. Down a bowler with the injury of Watson, and with a couple other bowlers misfiring we still managed to bowl South Africa out twice for moderate scores – helped I think, with an occasional lack of application by the SA batsmen.
On the other side of the coin our batting has been brittle at best. Ponting is enduring a run of low scores, Haddin unreliable, Hughes whimsical, and even Watson sometimes just plain dumb, it was not a batting team to inspire confidence. They did it though, on the back of Cummins great bowling, some pretty determined batting, and the predictable South African frailty in tight situations.
Interesting to see the flow on from this. Wins like that grow self belief. That’s great, but it shouldn’t obscure the facts: changes need to be made. I love Ponting and believe he should be picked for the summer, then retire. I’ve never been a big rap for Haddin, and he’s aging and unreliable. Wade is the obvious replacement now, but I’m a big advocate for Tim Paine, who has ability and good head on his shoulders. Unfortunately there are not a lot of batsmen pressing their claims at the moment.
The bowling is of more immediate concern. I love Siddle’s aggression, though it gets stupid sometimes, and he can be a dangerous bowler – but too often he is loose, and at worst, a pie chucker. Johnson is the enigma, a potential matchwinner with both bat and ball, he just doesn’t do it enough. Micky Arthur has been announced as the new Australian coach today (a good appointment), and maybe he can turn Johnson’s head around. Too valuable to dismiss, but on very thin ice.
In any case I’d be looking to introduce more of the young guns. In bowling we look great. In comes Pattinson I think for Siddle. Down the track others such as Cutting, Starc and eventually Hazlewood should come into contention.
The transition has to come, and it may not be a bad time now with the Kiwi’s on their way. Injuries make it difficult, but eventually I’d like to see Marsh opening, preferably not opposite Hughes, Khawaja at three, and Watson down the order as the classic all-rounder, with Paine/Wade keeping, and a bowling attack spear-headed by Cummins and Pattinson.
Watch what happens – will be surprised if that doesn’t eventuate at some point in the next 12 months.
- Cummins stays cool to guide Australia home (independent.co.uk)
- Teen Cummins caps dream debut as Australia tie South Africa series (cnn.com)