Australia’s captain and squad maintain composure in the face of ‘Bazball’ onslaughts on the pitch and ‘boring’ taunts off it.
The Australia Resilience Shines in Ashes Opener with Pat Cummins
With boundaries, Pat Cummins opened and ended the Edgbaston Test. The first hit came off the middle of Zak Crawley’s bat as England clarified their intentions. Still, the last was the game-winner as his thick edge down to deep third, palmed over the rope by Harry Brook, gave Australia a thrilling victory that had seemed out of reach just over an hour earlier.
As seen by his crucial wickets of Ollie Pope and Ben Stokes on the fourth day, Cummins can get as fired up as anybody when taking wickets. However, there was something more to the yell, leap, bat-throwing, and fist-pump that followed the winning runs.
Everyone participating in this game, both on and off the field, had been tested to the limit. With his head buried in his shirt, Cameron Green only observed. Fans on both sides found it difficult to watch. After a delayed start on the eve of the longest day of the year, it was when that final delivery bounced against the boundary marks at 7.21 pm that it became evident there would be no more twists.
Unsurprisingly, the outcome was declared one of the team’s best as dawned in Australia. However, this match and win will endure even when the excitement fades.
A team that played the lengthy game narrowly defeated one that played the rapid tournament. That is not to suggest that Australia has figured out “Bazball,” since things may change drastically following the Lord’s Test, but they refrained from trying to equal their opponents. The Hollies Stand chanted, “Boring, boring, Aussies”, as Usman Khawaja pounded his runs on the fourth afternoon. Australia is a problematic cricket side, and they went as deep as they needed to. A few more wickets, however, and Australia’s strategy would have been seen differently.
Throughout their great World Test Championship run, they have excelled at adaptability. Although they weren’t flawless, they managed to win the series in the final session after billing the Pakistan visit as a “15-day marathon” (yep, England won all three of their Test matches despite adopting a completely different approach). Even in India, where they first got it wrong, they averted a meltdown and won a renowned triumph in Indore. They even played a Test match on a bunsen in Sri Lanka. They currently lead an away Ashes match 1-0.
“You just have to have the mentality that you can win from anywhere, that anyone can win a match, and you can be the one to come up and win. When you’re a child playing in the backyard, you dream about being in the thick of an Ashes series and heading outside.
Australia’s opening-day strategies at Edgbaston attracted attention when they looked content to defer to England’s anticipated aggressiveness – Cummins started with a deep point, Nathan Lyon with four fielders in the deep. They didn’t flee, but they didn’t let England escape.
“We are a fairly stable team, and we know what we need to do to be at our best. We will keep doubling down on that,” Cummins said.
The scoring nearly stopped over a stretch last afternoon when Ben Stokes and Joe Root were using the old ball. Alex Carey attempted to pick up the pace but only managed to blast a drive back at Root, who expertly followed through to hold the stinging catch. Australia had two wickets in hand and needed 54 at that moment. On the fourth night, Lyon had expressed his hope that he wouldn’t need to put on the padding, but he had also added that he “would give it a crack” if he did.
Cummins took advantage of the opportunity as England took too long to take the second new ball by hitting two sixes off what ended up being Root’s final over. With Josh Hazlewood continuing to bowl, there were suddenly 37 runs needed. Carefully, the two reduced the run total, albeit the game would have likely been over had Stokes not caught a spectacular throw given by Lyon sprinting back off from square leg. They were at such margins. Against Stuart Broad, Lyon’s graceful off-drive seemed like a significant accomplishment. “I turned to face him, and as he passed, he said, ‘Nice shot Garry!'” Consider him content, Cummins stated during the presentation.
It was Australia’s best fourth-innings total since the coincidentally-timed 310 for 8 against South Africa in Johannesburg in 2011, during which Cummins made his debut. Successful fourth-inning chases of significant scale have been uncommon for Australia (that is mainly because they have dominated games from the outset, especially at home). The then 18-year-old ended undefeated on 13, hitting the winning runs through midwicket off Imran Tahir after previously taking a six-wicket haul. Before playing another Test, Cummins would wait another six years.
He admitted, “I did ponder about my debut. “At one point, while Nathan and I were batting out there, I pictured him praying like he was on my debut in the locker rooms.”
Early in his career, Cummins’ hitting showed potential. He averaged 21.12 with two half-centuries after 18 Tests, but that has slowly decreased. His first-inning 38 helped reduce England’s lead to just seven runs, and overall, it was the most runs he had scored in a Test. However, this has been his best game with the bat, and if it signals a longer-term improvement in his run-scoring, it will strengthen a strong Australia team at No. 8 or 9.
Along with the extensive pursuit, there was also the close victory. While comparisons to 2005 are unavoidable (Cummins quipped, ‘I think we were all about 10 years old,’) the pair at the wicket, when it ended, offered some atonement for Headingley in 2019 when, in the field at that time, Cummins and Lyon were critical players in the drama that surrounded Stokes’ outstanding innings.
Cummins proclaimed, “Think it’s huge.” “You just have to have the mentality that you can win from anywhere, that anyone can win a match, and you can be the one to come up and win. When you’re a kid playing in the backyard, you wish you were out there in the middle of an ashes series”.
The outcome was notable partly because Marnus Labuschagne and Steven Smith provided the fewest runs to the game—just 35 throughout their four innings, the fewest in a victory. That will hurt England after spending so many hours bowling against Smith. The fact that Australia has the top opener and best spinner on each side over the five Test matches might be crucial.
The Player of the Match, Khawaja, who played in all but 25 of the overs, should have an ultimate say on the opening chapter of this series despite all the analysis and in-depth research that will be done. I was s***ing myself for the final five minutes there; I’m not going to lie,” he admitted. “It’s heartbreaking.
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