South Africa v Australia, 1st Test, Cape Town, 3rd day November 11, 2011

Cummins' debut prospects brighten

Australia's teenage fast bowler, Patrick Cummins, could make his Test debut at the Wanderers next week after a lacklustre display from Australia's attack

Australia's teenage fast bowler, Patrick Cummins, could make his Test debut at the Wanderers next week after a lacklustre display from Australia's attack on the third day in Cape Town. Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle were disappointing, while Ryan Harris was unlucky to have an edge dropped off his bowling early in the day, and then leaked plenty of runs.

Michael Clarke's assessment of Australia's bowling in the second innings was apparent when he was asked which members of the attack had stood up on the final day. A nine-second pause followed. He searched for an answer, but no names came to mind.

"As a bowling unit we didn't bowl anywhere near as well as we had to to beat South Africa today," Clarke said. "I would have liked to see us fight a bit harder today and have a bit more of a crack and at least get into South Africa's middle order."

He added that the batting was still the key reason Australia had lost the Test. And on both fronts Australia's selectors - of whom Clarke is one - have concerns.

The most likely scenario is a change to the bowling group, although Shaun Marsh's back injury could force a tweak to the batting line-up. Three hours after the match finished, the back-up batsman in Australia's squad, Usman Khawaja, headed to the Newlands nets for a hit.

He was accompanied by Cummins and Trent Copeland, the two fast men who sat out of the Cape Town Test. The Wanderers typically offers plenty of assistance for the fast men and Cummins, 18, might be unleashed.

The easiest thing for the selectors to do would be to leave out Siddle, who took one wicket for the game and was the third of the fast men chosen. Harris will not be axed while Johnson is considered a potential match-winner, although at Newlands he bowled badly, failing to swing the ball and sending too many deliveries short and wide.

Johnson finished with match figures of 1 for 87 from 16 overs and narrowly avoided the second wicketless Test of his career, collecting the late wicket of Hashim Amla. In seven of his past 16 Test bowling innings, he has failed to make a breakthrough.

"We need him taking wickets, there's no doubt," Clarke said. "I love having him in the team. I've said all along that he's a match-winner. But we've just got to perform better. It's hard: nobody means to get out and nobody means to fail. But at this level we as a team have got to find a way to be consistent. He's no different to our top six or seven batters.

"We've got to pick our best XI. Whoever we think our best XI is for the second Test match needs to be selected. If that means no changes that means no changes, if that means four changes that means four changes."

Ponting's miserable form continued and his shuffle across the stumps is becoming a fatal flaw. He swore as he walked off the field after being adjudged lbw for a duck in the second innings when he missed a straight ball. It is to be hoped his anger was directed only at himself.

When Michael Clarke was asked which members of the attack had stood up on the final day, a nine-second pause followed. He searched for an answer, but no names came to mind

Ponting is 36 and in a slump, but it is hard to imagine Andrew Hilditch's outgoing selection panel making the tough call on a veteran player, with John Inverarity's new selection group to take over after this Test. In the case of Brad Haddin, one of the major culprits in the woeful batting display, there is no backup wicketkeeper on the tour.

And the batting situation might be determined by Marsh's injury, although there is a chance David Warner could be flown in as cover. Marsh hurt his back while changing direction running between the wickets on the first day, and he batted at No.10 in the second innings.

Marsh's fitness was believed to have improved on the third day, although he stayed at the team hotel and watched the defeat unfold on television. The team physio, Alex Kountouris, said it was not clear if Marsh would be fit for the second Test.

"You usually have to wait the first couple of days once the original spasm and everything the acuteness of the injury settles down," Kountouris said. "Once that settles down I'll have a better idea of whether he's more likely to get better in the short term or the longer term. He's had this before though, he had this 12 months ago and got better reasonably quickly but every occasion is different so we'll just have to wait and see how he goes."

Whatever the case, Australia's selectors have some decisions to make. Forty-seven cannot be allowed to happen again.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Asad on November 14, 2011, 15:30 GMT

    What is with this Johnson-fixation of the Aussies? A whole Ashes series (of 5 tests) went by with the Aussies hoping he would come to the party.

  • david on November 14, 2011, 14:24 GMT

    randyoz prior and keiswetter u have a problem with but khawaja u have no problem with. can u please explain your logic agaist prior at least, the prior family emigrated back to the country of his fathers birth when he was 11, so can only play for SA. usman khawaja born in pakistan of pakistan parents moved to australia when he was 3/4 but u have no problem with him, so much so u are telling us he should be selected. as i said i cannot see in any shape or form why thats a problem with u. using your argument a australian service man stationed overseas and his english wife who have a child overseas, he cannot play for austraila but if he played for england that would be wrong. unbelievable. dpk

  • Satish on November 14, 2011, 5:11 GMT

    @azzaman333 : Siddle proven performer? He is way too inconsistent.. Anyway, Aus bowlers are struggling apart from Watto n Harris.. The rest two slots can be given to any of the pace bowlers and test them..

  • Dummy4 on November 14, 2011, 4:02 GMT

    No question the batsmen should take most of them blame but what changes can we make? Khawaja is probably going to replace Marsh and the only other guy we can bring in now is Warner. Bowling we have 3 bowlers in reserve so obviously a lot easier to make changes. As for the bowlers getting the job done, I only saw 1 bowler and an all rounder getting the job done. Siddle and Johnson were nowhere to be seen and Lyon didn't get enough of a bowl until the game was long over.

  • Matt on November 14, 2011, 0:00 GMT

    I wonder if the new selection panel will take the first oppportunity to radically cut out the dead wood (Haddin, Ponting and Johnson) as a statement of how things are going ot be. Say to Johnson "take this opportunity to go and bercome more consistent", and maybe have a real man-to-man with the senior players and ask if they want to retire, or continue on a test by test basis, or get unceremoniously booted. Surely the era of Steve Waugh-like testimoial summers has passed. If Ponting makes it till the next Ashes, I'll eat what's left of smudgeons sofa, no matter what condition it's in by then. And I doubt i will be eating sofa...

  • Andrew on November 13, 2011, 23:48 GMT

    The Pitch was only a minor factor in the 47 run debacle that was Oz's 2nd innings. The primary factor was stupidity & the climate. The conditions for most of Day 2 were conducive to swing. The Pitch was deteriorating on Day 3, but Oz bowlers then failed to contain & let the pitch do the work. Too many 4-balls meant that the Saffas rapped the match up quickly. Oz should of made them go for 90 overs to bring home the Bacon. In that time they may have got into the middle order & then who knows.

  • Dummy4 on November 13, 2011, 14:03 GMT

    azzaman what are you talking about the only thing Siddle has proven is that he is a test dud so what if he's taken a hat trick he's done nothing since

  • rahul on November 13, 2011, 10:42 GMT


  • Dummy4 on November 13, 2011, 6:32 GMT

    1.Marsh 2.Kawajha 3.Watson 4.Clarke 5.Hussey 6.Ponting/Ferguson 7.Paine 8.Hauritz 9.Harris 10. Cummins 11.Hazelwood/Pattinson/Bollinger etc...

    Watson would also fit in to no.5 and Clarke and Hussey move up respectively. It is imperative that Hussey goes up and Ponting goes down.......or just goes.

  • Aaron on November 13, 2011, 5:23 GMT

    Good to see the NSW bias lives on. Cummins and Copeland ahead of Siddle? Are you kidding me? Cummins is unproven at even first class level, Copeland has no penetration at test level. Siddle is a proven performer in tests, whose only concern (along with every other fast bowler in the country) is susceptibility to injury.

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