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News

Cummins coy on Australia bowling attack and Bazball plans

A decision on who will play out of Starc, Hazlewood and Boland might not be revealed until the toss at Edgbaston

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
15-Jun-2023
Can you plan for Bazball? We are about to get a proper idea. The concept has been around for a year now and has had only a couple of blips - one by the narrowest of margins in New Zealand - but newly-crowned world Test champions Australia appear to be the team best equipped to challenge the phenomenon.
However, Pat Cummins won't be ripping up the playbook to counter a style that has, well, ripped up the playbook. There is confidence within the Australia camp that the traits that have served them well over the last two years, and in a variety of conditions, especially overseas, will continue to do that in the face of whatever England throws at them.
Unlike South Africa last year, who tested England with their quicks, Australia have a powerful batting line-up to go alongside it. That's not to say they won't be doing things slightly differently - field settings are likely to be where the most obvious reaction to England's approach is seen - but with a bowling attack that appears set to feature three bowlers with over 200 wickets (one of whom is approaching 500) and another with an average under 15, they have the tools to counter England's aggression.
The final decision on the make-up of that attack may not come until the morning of the game. One of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood or Scott Boland will miss out. It feels like a decision between the two line-and-length bowlers with Starc's point-of-difference angle working in his favour.
"The aim is always to stick to what you do well and when the opposition puts pressure on you, where you get caught is when you go away from your game plan," Cummins said. "I think you will see maybe some slightly different plans or slightly different fields, but I don't think you'll see a drastically different approach from our bowlers or batters.
"What makes us good bowlers I think will hold true and if we think we're going to get an lbw or caught in slips we are going to leave our slips in. The more you get into the minutiae you end up with a simplified plan so that's what we're going to be hammering home. I don't think you'll see too much different from our team. I think our best stuff is still our strongest suit."
Whether that philosophy holds true will only be known when a pair of England batters get on top. It could happen as early as the first day at Edgbaston with a raucous crowd behind them. Regardless of how prepared he is for the series, Cummins knows there are almost certain to be times when he is under pressure.
"There's going to be some moments of tension for everyone, which is exciting," he said. "You talk about it, you hopefully have a Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, and at times you just go on your gut. There's going to be high-pressure moments, but you wouldn't want to be anywhere else but out there in the middle of it."
Despite Ben Stokes' call for "flat, fast" pitches - and it remains to be seen how Edgbaston plays - which have been viewed as potentially playing into Australia's hands, Cummins still believes conditions will be a threat.
"It's still a Dukes ball, still the overheads come into play," he said. "It's still very much conditions that the home country grows up playing their whole life in."
Cummins is aiming to go where no Australia captain has been since Steve Waugh in 2001: winning a series in England. It was proven beyond Ricky Ponting (2005 and 2009), Michael Clarke (2013 and 2015) and Tim Paine (2019). The latter came closest with a golden chance missed last time when they succumbed to Stokes at Headingley and then paid the price for strange selection and tactics at The Oval.
It's a result that still stings those involved and for some, this will be their last opportunity of claiming the Ashes in England. The word legacy is being used about what the next six weeks mean for this Australian team.
"Even after the other day there was a bit of talk that we'd ticked off the World Test Championship, the T20 World Cup, a one-day World Cup, but we still don't feel like we've ticked off an away Ashes series," Cummins said. "It's the aim for our group this time."

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo