South Africa v Australia, 2nd Test, Johannesburg, 4th day November 20, 2011

Cummins delighted at debut display


It was hard to wipe the smile off Pat Cummins' face at the end of the first day of this Test, when he had taken one wicket. On the fourth day, his grin seemed as permanent as Hashim Amla's beard.

At 18, Cummins had become the second-youngest man in Test history to take a six-wicket haul, behind Bangladesh's Enamul Haque jnr. He had been on a hat-trick. He had outbowled his more senior colleagues. Most importantly, he had given Australia a fighting chance of victory in a match that 24 hours earlier appeared to have slipped from their grasp.

And all this from a man who began the year uncapped at state level.

"It's surreal to be overseas playing cricket for Australia," Cummins said. "To be in the position where we can win a game is certainly special as well."

By the close of play, Australia were 168 runs from what would be a series-levelling win. Were it not from the way Cummins bowled either side of lunch, they would have next to no chance.

First, there was the outswinger that got rid of AB de Villiers, full enough to encourage the drive and curvy enough to catch the edge. It ended a 147-run stand between de Villiers and Hashim Amla, a partnership that threatened to take the match out of Australia's reach.

After lunch, Cummins struck first ball when a fierce bouncer clipped Vernon Philander's glove on the way through to Brad Haddin. A yorker accounted for Morne Morkel next ball. As Cummins stood at his mark, on a hat-trick and bowling to Imran Tahir, his aim was simple.

"A couple of the guys said Tahir wouldn't be the worst batsman to bowl a hat-trick ball at," Cummins said. "I was just trying to bowl it as quick as possible and as full, and at the stumps. Unfortunately he fended it away."

It was a fine ball, for a hat-trick delivery: full and straight. He finished the innings with 6 for 79 when Dale Steyn edged behind. It completed a brilliant debut bowling performance from Cummins, Australia's second-youngest Test player of all time.

It was all the more remarkable considering the expectations that have been placed on Cummins. He entered the match with a reputation that belied the three first-class games he had to his name. Cummins said playing away from home had been a blessing, although it was still daunting at first to bowl to men like Amla and Jacques Kallis.

"Just knowing what the batsmen are capable of here, you see them on TV and you've heard about them, the big averages come on the scoreboard," Cummins said. "It is more daunting but once you get into a spell you start to forget about those things.

"You're removed from a few of the pressures that Australia give you and the attention that you get over there. That's helped, and also having a team that I'm pretty familiar with. We've been here for almost a month and a half, so I'm hanging out with the same bunch of guys."

He'll be hanging out with them for a while yet. Cummins has become a certainty for Australia's first Test of the home summer, against New Zealand on December 1 at the Gabba. The only doubt is how his young body will handle a full season of Test cricket.

That's a question for another day. For now, Cummins deserves to be celebrated.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andrew on November 22, 2011, 0:17 GMT

    AND he got the winning runs!

  • vikram on November 21, 2011, 11:48 GMT

    no doubt he is good bowler, but why so much it bcoz he is an aussie?? there are bowlers around the world who are also delivering at the same pace but without a mention..strange. Also when indian will be visiting them next month...i am sure they will play the name "Pat Cummins" and not the bowler. They are always scared of high profile bowlers.

  • Justin on November 21, 2011, 9:33 GMT

    He has started well but give the kid some time to bed himself into the side - remember when johnson first played SA and was hailed as the next great thing. Lets hope that he gets better as he learns his trade on the international platform.

  • irfan on November 21, 2011, 7:03 GMT

    Good for OZ. Wish him best of luck for bright and long career.

  • Tootsie on November 21, 2011, 4:37 GMT

    Cummins will be even more effective with a decent bowler at the other end. Siddle and Johnson just cannot apply any sustained pressure.

  • Bryn on November 21, 2011, 4:37 GMT

    what an unbelievable unit. he bowls with pace, he bowls with malace, pat got amla, then he got kallis.

  • Luke on November 21, 2011, 4:07 GMT

    Already alot of expectations on this young kid whose body is still unproven. If he can stay fit, he should have a long career ahead of him. IF he can stay fit.

  • Randolph on November 21, 2011, 4:02 GMT

    The best fast bowler in the side since McGrath, this guy is a world beater.

  • Marcio on November 21, 2011, 3:50 GMT

    Yes, a great find, but has to be managed carefully, as many have stated. How sad it was though to see MJ doing the same old same old, and Siddle the same. The selectors think that somehow these guys will see through the Matrix code and morph into Matrix supermen. It's not going to happen. With MJ, his time is up. That is as clear as day.

  • Orang on November 21, 2011, 1:30 GMT

    Great debut but he will break down and then be forgotten. Still no one to matchl Lillee or McGrath.

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