An incredible man of the match performance from Pat Cummins has piled the pressure back on Mitchell Starc after a stark contrast between the two bowlers’ fortunes.
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Cummins’ incredible 6/23 from 15 overs in the second innings — giving him 10 wickets for the match — may have helped Australia to its first win by an innings in just over 12 months but the unplayable spell has added pressure on his bowling partner.
The spotlight has well and truly been on Mitchell Starc throughout the summer but this Test has exposed it even more.
While debutant Jhye Richardson was outstanding on day one, leading Michael Vaughan to call him “number one on the team sheet for Edgbaston” for the first Ashes Test, Cummins’ first 10-wicket haul in Tests has heaped the pressure on Starc to hold onto his position leading the bowling attack.
Kerry O’Keeffe said today was the day Pat Cummins arrived on the international stage.
“He arrived today Pat Cummins,” Kerry O’Keeffe said. “He’s got his Test bowling average to 23, that is elite. He brings so much, apart from the fact he’s now bowling fuller. He is the complete package at the moment.”
Starc, however, took just two Sri Lankan lower order wickets in the first innings with no strikes in the second innings.
Cummins has long been the first change bowler behind Starc and Josh Hazlewood, while Richardson also kept Cummins away from the new ball in the first innings.
After taking a wicket with his last ball on day two, Cummins opened proceedings on day three and was fresh, taking his second wicket with his second ball of the day.
He had three scalps before a run was scored off him and soon had a fourth in his opening spell.
Shane Warne has not been able to hide his dismay at the bowling tactics throughout the summer but even when he’s not in commentary he words echo loudly.
Warne, who has been a vocal critic of Starc this summer, said it was good to see Cummins start with the new ball in hand.
Warne was critical of Starc’s new ball bowling throughout the Indian series, starting with what he called an “atrocious” second new ball spell in Adelaide with the criticism increasing throughout the summer.
Cummins has 80 wickets at 24.51 with three five-wicket hauls in his Test career while at the same stage of their careers Dennis Lillee had 83 at 22.75 with four five-fors and Glenn McGrath had 71 wickets at 27.72 with four five-fors.
After today’s performance, Cummins has 90 wickets at 22.47.
Speaking in commentary for Fox Cricket, Brett Lee said Cummins deserves to be Australia’s spearhead.
“He’s done the hard yards, he’s worked so hard on his fitness, he’s worked very hard on his batting and what happens when you’re a bowler and you get injured is that it allows you to work on your batting,” he said.
“He’s the complete package right now, Pat Cummins. If we get Mitchell Starc firing, get him back to where we know he can bowl, then Australia have got a brilliant attack.
“I like Jhye Richardson, I like Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins. At the moment Mitchell Starc is not at his best, we all know that, he probably knows that as well, I think it’s time now to give the new ball to Pat Cummins.
“I think he’s earned that right. I was a bit surprised that he was leapfrogged by Jhye Richardson, I thought they would have gone with Starc and Pat Cummins.”
But what about Josh Hazlewood?
“Well, we’re spoiled for choice,” Lee said.
“Hazlewood, 140km/h and a lot like Glenn (McGrath) as well. You’ve got guys who can do the role of the great bowlers of the past and you’ve got guys who’ve got raw pace. This guy has got raw pace and raw pace is something you can’t turn your back on.”
Ian Healy said the decision should come down to the new Australian vice-captain.
“As long as he’s happy with the new ball and he’s really comfortable, he’s the man,” Healy said.
“Then Starc can forget about swinging it as much but just use his pace, create some pressure at the top of off (stump), get his length right so it might go on to hit the stumps.”
Starc told Mike Hussey on Fox Cricket he has a simple plan to get back in form.
“(I’ve got to) trust myself and back myself,” Starc said. “I’ve had 50 Tests now, it’s no fluke. I haven’t forgotten how to bowl, I just need to get that feeling back.”
Lee said Starc shouldn’t be lost to the Australia set-up despite his struggles at the moment.
“The reason I love Mitchell Starc is I know what he can do,” Lee said.
“He can bowl at 155km/h and swing the ball back and knock someone’s front pad off but at the moment, he’s lost his way a little bit.
“There’s a lot of people telling him how to bowl, they all mean well and I’ve been there many times Heals where you just lose your edge, whether it’s your action, whether you’re carrying an injury and also confidence too. Sometimes your mind gets clouded.”
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