'Class apart': Cricket world hails 'incredible' Pat Cummins act

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Pat Cummins returned with Australia's first two wickets in the Boxing Day Test after missing Adelaide because of a Covid-19 scare. Pic: Getty
Pat Cummins returned with Australia's first two wickets in the Boxing Day Test after missing Adelaide because of a Covid-19 scare. Pic: Getty

Australian captain Pat Cummins wasted no time making his presence felt after returning for the Boxing Day Ashes Test against England at the MCG.

The Aussie skipper was fuming after missing the second Test in Adelaide because he was a close contact of a positive Covid-19 case at a restaurant in the South Australian capital.

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In a sign of how eager he was to return to action, the Aussie skipper decided to bowl first in the third Test after winning the toss at the MCG on Sunday.

Cummins' decision was heavily influenced by the overcast conditions and 11mm of grass on the MCG pitch, in what promised to be a favourable scenario for Australia's bowlers.

The Aussie skipper's move to bowl first was immediately vindicated as Cummins struck in his very first over - removing out-of-sorts England opener Haseeb Hameed for a duck.

Hameed was drawn into playing at a delivery on a perfect length from Cummins, with wicketkeeper Alex Carey taking the catch after the ball found the edge of the opener's bat.

Cummins was at it again a few overs later, forcing recalled England opener Zak Crawley (12 runs) into playing at a ball that rose off the deck above his off stump.

A thick edge from Crawley sailed into the safe hands of Cam Green at gully to give the Aussies a dream start and pile the pain on the struggling tourists.

England's Dawid Malan and Joe Root looked to be steadying the ship for the visitors after putting on a handy partnership.

However, Cummins snared his and Australia's third scalp with another textbook delivery that enticed Malan forward and caught the batter's edge.

David Warner took the catch in the slips to remove Malan for 14, leaving the tourists reeling at 3-61 at lunch.

Cricket fans took to social media in droves to express their admiration for Cummins, after the Aussie skipper cemented his status as the world's best bowler.

The Aussies went into the Boxing Day Test on a cool and overcast day at the MCG, leading the five-Test series 2-0 and with all the momentum.

They only need a draw to retain the urn as holders.

Light drizzle delayed the toss by 30 minutes, with play also due to start half an hour late, although the weather is forecast to brighten up.

Australia made two changes from the side that beat England by 275 runs in Adelaide, with Cummins back at the expense of Michael Neser.

Victoria quick Scott Boland making Test debut

Scott Boland makes his debut aged 32 on his home ground in place of Jhye Richardson, who is still sore after taking five wickets in England's second innings last week.

In earning his Baggy Green cap, Boland becomes the first Indigenous man to play Test cricket for Australia since fellow fast bowler Jason Gillespie.

Seen here, Victoria quick Scott Boland is all smiles after receiving his baggy green cap on Boxing Day.
Victoria quick Scott Boland was all smiles after receiving his baggy green cap on Boxing Day at the MCG. Pic: Getty

"We'd earmarked him for a little while," Cummins said of Boland's call-up.

Embattled England made four changes for a Test they must win to keep their Ashes dreams alive.

Crawley was recalled for struggling opener Rory Burns while veteran Jonny Bairstow takes over at number six from Ollie Pope.

Speedster Mark Wood returns after being rested in Adelaide while off-spinner Jack Leach is also back in an attack spearheaded by veteran quick Jimmy Anderson and Ollie Robinson.

Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad were overlooked.

"We'd have probably done the same," said captain Joe Root of the toss.

"We have an opportunity to put runs on the board early. I expect a reaction this week. We are more than capable of doing it."

England: Haseeb Hameed, Zak Crawley, Dawid Malan, Joe Root (capt), Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Mark Wood, Ollie Robinson, Jack Leach, Jimmy Anderson

Australia: David Warner, Marcus Harris, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins (capt), Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Scott Boland

with agencies

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