Cummins eyes fourth day of Shield match
Pat Cummins expects to be parachuted in to the New South Wales Sheffield Shield team on the final day of what is shaping as a potentially fiery encounter with a Queensland side not entirely happy to be facing as many as 15 players against their 11 ahead of the first Test at the Gabba.
While Cummins has been left out of the New South Wales side for their Sheffield Shield match against Queensland, to start at the Allan Border Field in Brisbane on Friday, there is a chance the 19-year-old may be included as a substitute player for the last day of the match on Monday, with four of the Blues players due to join Australia's Test squad.
Returning home from a trophy-winning Twenty20 Champions League campaign with the Sydney Sixers, Cummins said he hoped to be able to take part in the final day of the match, his first involvement in a first-class fixture since his one and only Test match against South Africa in Johannesburg last year.
"We mapped it out three or four months ago so I knew what the process was going to be, I obviously want to be out there playing cricket and Shield cricket especially," Cummins said. "Hopefully, maybe I'll play on the fourth day of this game, depending on what the selectors do with the Aussie side and then hopefully after that get into the next Shield game.
"I have been playing T20 cricket for about two or three months and we mapped out a plan then and in between the games we knew we wouldn't be able to fit in enough overs to get right for Shield straight away, so it's probably building up for two or three weeks and then getting right for the shield game against Victoria at the SCG."
If NSW were bowling on the final day of the match, that would allow Cummins to ease his way back into Shield competition after spending the past two months playing Twenty20 cricket with Australia and the Sydney Sixers. Cummins, who has not played a first-class match for nearly a year, is expected to be considered for the third Test against South Africa in Perth, but only if his body and form holds up through Shield cricket in the meantime.
Queensland are unhappy that they do not know the identity of the replacement players they may face, the coach Darren Lehmann pointing out that the side may be stacked with batsmen or bowlers depending on the game scenario.
"It's certainly not fair," Lehmann said. "I'd like to know who the replacements are when we're playing a game. They could be bowling or chasing runs and end up picking all batters to replace their bowlers. So I'd like to know who they are replacing them with.
"If they don't replace them, or rather don't let us know who they are, then they can't replace them. It's first-class cricket."
New South Wales have named a squad featuring four members of Australia's Test squad - Michael Clarke, Shane Watson, David Warner and Mitchell Starc - and only two players who have not played for or toured with the Australians. Brad Haddin will keep the wicketkeeping gloves ahead of Peter Nevill, who has been named as a specialist batsman.
The Blues will be without Moises Henriques and Steven Smith, who will instead be part of the Australia A team to play South Africa in Sydney. For Cummins, the chance to play even a walk-on role in a first-class fixture is an enticing prospect after a year beset by injuries and countless T20 engagements.
"In the past 18 months [Johannesburg] was the only game of cricket I played with a red ball, so I am itching to get back with the red ball and trying to get it swinging around for more than two overs," Cummins said. "You want to play as much cricket as possible and it starts with the Shield and I haven't played Shield cricket for close to 18 months now so I am chomping at the bit to get out there.
"It's ok that it is mapped out three or four months in advance but it does hurt when you are sitting on the sidelines and you feel relatively fit and there are other people playing."
New South Wales squad David Warner, Shane Watson, Scott Henry, Nic Maddinson, Michael Clarke (capt), Peter Nevill, Brad Haddin (wk), Steve O'Keefe, Mitchell Starc, Trent Copeland, Josh Hazlewood, Doug Bollinger.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here