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Australia hold all the aces, but Cummins doesn't want to 'forward-plan too much'

The hosts will miss Hazlewood, but have a ready replacement in Jhye Richardson and might give a bigger role to Cameron Green

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
15-Dec-2021
Pat Cummins prepares to bowl, Brisbane, December 11, 2021

Cummins: "You can have a think about planning ahead but you have to play what's in front of you"  •  AFP/Getty Images

Pat Cummins' learning-on-the-fly captaincy will be tested in Adelaide this week as he juggles an attack without one of Australia's pink-ball spearheads plus the added factor of the day-night element.
Cummins - and Australia - have more day-night experience to call on than others. He has been involved in five of the team's eight floodlit Tests, in which they have a 100% record with five of the wins coming at Adelaide Oval. And while the tactical elements of the format are, perhaps, sometimes overblown - Faf du Plessis' declaration in the 2016-17 Test is the only example of a captain really thinking outside the box, and that was partly because David Warner was off the field - it will now fall on Cummins' shoulders to make the decisions needed.
Being a bowler will give him plenty of first-hand knowledge of what can happen in the final session of the day when the lights have taken hold. In the 2017-18 Ashes Test, Australia were on the receiving end of James Anderson and Chris Woakes nipping the ball around after Steven Smith had not enforced the follow-on, but Australia's advantage was so large that it didn't change the outcome.
"There's a few different considerations for sure," Cummins said. "Think you have to earn the right to dictate the timings of the game. There's a few things you think about if you are in a certain stage, whether you might do a slightly different declaration, but you really have to be in that position. Don't think you can forward-plan too much.
"One hour can be a long time in a pink-ball game. Nothing can happen, or it can be darting around everywhere, you feel like you'll lose a wicket every ball. You can have a think about planning ahead but you have to play what's in front of you. It's still a new format and we are still learning."
In reality, though, Australia have rarely been challenged too hard in Adelaide with their three-wicket win in the first match of the format against New Zealand in 2015-16 the tightest occasion. Whichever team bats first, barring a strange set of circumstances, the timing of a declaration only comes into the reckoning if the innings has gone deep into the second day.
"It went perfectly for us [in Brisbane], no doubt that's not going to happen every game and certainly won't happen this series I'm sure. We couldn't be happier with the start but know it's one match in a five-match series"
Pat Cummins
"It's still not a huge sample size but you feel like you learn something new every time you play one," Cummins said. "You might get a period of play where the ball just starts swinging around and you can't explain why. We've got good experience. Definitely when you start the match you can't see it playing out exactly like a red-ball game."
This time, though, there is one difference Cummins will need to contend with: the absence of Josh Hazlewood, who has a magnificent record with the pink ball, having taken 32 wickets at 19.90 (although that is still the highest average of Australia's big three, which emphasises England's task).
However, the attack remains strong with Jhye Richardson a ready replacement, albeit not with the height of Hazlewood. Instead, he will challenge England with sharp, late outswing at around 145kph - which is not a bad skillset for this type of Test. He also averages 19.33 in day-night first-class cricket with five wickets on his debut in a floodlit Test against Sri Lanka.
There was a suggestion from Cummins that allrounder Cameron Green - who has the height to match Hazlewood - could see a more prominent role with the ball, having impressed in the Gabba, especially with his dismissal of Joe Root in England's second innings.
"We are really lucky to have bench strength like Jhye to walk straight in," Cummins said. "Josh is one of the best in the world and is very hard to replace, but think Jhye really is in that upper echelon. He's been bowling fantastically.
"Probably the biggest change is having someone like Cameron Green to lean on as well. Will probably try and get him into the game a bit more. Nathan [Lyon] always finds a bit of spin. We aren't short of options at any time."
Despite the injury to Hazlewood and the concerns over David Warner's fitness with how much he will be hampered by his damaged ribs, the majority of the problems remain England's - largely around whether their batting line-up can post a strong first-innings total, but also balancing an attack to take 20 wickets - as they try to get themselves back into the series.
"It went perfectly for us [in Brisbane], no doubt that's not going to happen every game and certainly won't happen this series I'm sure," Cummins said. "We couldn't be happier with the start but know it's one match in a five-match series."
That said, Australia's record in this fixture would suggest that Cummins is well placed to be able to continue his perfect start in the captaincy seat.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo