Under-fire Aussie captain Pat Cummins has brushed off the drama surrounding him with a classy spell of bowling on the opening day of the fifth and final Ashes Test at The Oval. While fellow fast bowler Mitchell Starc grabbed most of the headlines after taking 4-82 to help bowl England out for 283 in their first innings, Cummins looked back to his best on day one.
The visitors will resume day two on 1-61, with David Warner the only Aussie wicket to fall after he was caught off the bowling of Chris Woakes for 24 runs. Usman Khawaja (26 not out) once again proved a rock at the top of the order and will be joined by Marnus Labuschagne (two not out) when day two resumes, as Cummins' men set look to ram home their advantage.
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The Aussie skipper has copped a wave of criticism about his captaincy this series and whether he can juggle those responsibilities, while being at his ruthless best with the ball. It came after Cummins slumped to career-worst Test figures in the fourth Test, where he was belted for 1-129 off 23 overs.
On day one at The Oval, Cummins provided an emphatic response to his critics with a brutal spell of bowling after winning the toss and electing to bowl first in overcast conditions. Again, Cummins opted to hand Josh Hazlewood (2-54) the new ball in partnership with the deadly Starc, but the skipper looked dangerous when he did join the attack.
Cummins may have only ended up with 1-66 after picking up the solitary wicket of England opener Zak Crawley (22 runs), but the figures only tell a small part of the story. The reality is Cummins should have had at least two more wickets, with David Warner and Alex Carey guilty of dropping opener Ben Duckett and middle order danger man Harry Brook, respectively.
Cricket world praises 'brilliant' Pat Cummins spell
Carey's drop proved particularly costly with Brook on just five runs at the time, before he went on to smash a classy 85 runs off 91 balls. Brook himself singled out Cummins for praise at the end of play for the unrelenting line and length the skipper was able to deliver with the ball.
“Australia are so persistent in their lengths, particularly Pat Cummins," he told Sky Sports. “When he gets a bit off the pitch, he is tough to face. I felt like I got battered on the inner thigh pad all day.”
Former Aussie women's cricket star Mel Jones said on Sky Sports that Cummins looked refreshed after the Old Trafford Test and back to his clinical best. “Cummins has copped a little bit for his captaincy and the speeds he was bowling at in the fourth Test at Old Trafford," she said.
“But you have to think of his massive workload, with the World Test Championship (final) taking place before the Ashes also. That was his fastest first spell ever in England this morning. He is rested, rejuvenated and led the charge. He has done superbly well.”
Former England captain Michael Atherton and retired Aussie batter Callum Ferguson said their only real criticism around Cummins was the fact he didn't take the new ball. “I just wonder whether we could have looked at him with the new ball,” Ferguson said on Channel 9.
“When he came on, he made things happen. Hit a good hard length and really challenged that sort of fourth stump, fifth stump line.” Fans were also quick to sing the Aussie captain's praises on social media, with stats showing 66% of his deliveries drew a false shot - the highest percentage for a bowling spell in the Ashes since 2006.
— Stephen Quartermain (@Quartermain10) July 27, 2023
After probably his worst outing with the ball in Test cricket last week, Pat Cummins has run in and bowled this morning with the better rhythm than we’ve seen all tour long #Ashes
— Bharat Sundaresan (@beastieboy07) July 27, 2023
— Andrew McGlashan (@andymcg_cricket) July 27, 2023
Pat Cummins’ opening spell 6-1-21-1:
Beat the bat - 7
Dropped catches - 2
Almost chopped on - 1
Wickets - 1 #Ashes
— Josh Schönafinger (@joshschon) July 27, 2023
Awesome bowling from Pat Cummins. Real handful.
— Robert (@Bobjacket) July 27, 2023
Pat Cummins has the English batsmen on toast here. Brilliant spell of bowling this. One of his best this series. #Ashes23
— John Webster 🏴 (@johnauldwebster) July 27, 2023
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