Pat Cummins continues to scale new heights with each passing month and the Australia pacer is now just one wicket away from bringing up a century of international wickets in 2019.
59 of those wickets have come in the Test format with five of them coming in New Zealand’s first innings in the ongoing Boxing Day clash at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
No other bowler comes close to Cummins’ profligacy in the Test format this year with England’s Stuart Broad currently the second highest wicket-taker with 43 wickets. There is, after all, a reason why the Aussie speedster has been the undisputed No1 ranked bowler in Tests and it will be hard for anyone to kick him off that perch any time soon.
There may be no resemblance between Cummins and Glenn McGrath when it comes to bowling actions or the speed with which both deliver the ball. However, the similarities between him and the Australia bowling great are uncanny otherwise.
McGrath’s mastery with the ball lay with the fact that he could pitch the ball on a dime around the off-stump all day long. From there on, subtle seam movement, into or away, from the batsman did the rest. Few could cope with McGrath’s relentless consistency with the lanky seamer possessing the ability to succeed in any sort of conditions.
Cummins has adopted the McGrath playbook to a tee with the 26-year-old relying on seam movement and a consistent off-stump channel attack to bamboozle batsmen. But while Cummins does all things McGrath did, he does it at a much more rapid pace.
There has been no better proponent than McGrath when it comes to the art of setting up batsmen, and Cummins showed those exact qualities on Saturday with the manner in which he outfoxed New Zealand opener Tom Latham.
Having just brought up a half-century, Latham was well set at the crease before Cummins unleashed a barrage of deliveries aimed at the top of the off-stump. Moving the ball both ways to leave Latham guessing, Cummins finally found the outside edge with one that swung away from the left-handed batsman.
52 of Cummins’ 139 Test dismissals so far have come via the batsmen being caught behind by the wicketkeeper – a testament to his ability to keep attacking the same line outside the off-stump.
Despite missing more than six years of international cricket due to a spate of injuries, Cummins’ career trajectory seems to be charting the same path as McGrath’s.
After the same amount of Test appearances (29), it is Cummins with more wickets than McGrath who was 27 at the same stage of his career. Cummins’ 139 wickets have come at an average of only 21.58, while McGrath’s 121 wickets after 29 Tests came at 25.48.
Cummins’ run of injury troubles seem to be long behind him as well, with the fast bowler barely missing a game since making his return to international cricket in 2017. Having played eight Tests apiece in both 2017 and 2018, the Aussie has managed an even heavier workload this year with 12 appearances in the format.
In an era blessed with Jasprit Bumrah, Kagiso Rabada and Jofra Archer, there is absolutely no dearth of exciting fast bowlers in the international circuit. However, Cummins just seems to have that extra edge over his counterparts with his ridiculous consistency. Seldom does the Sydney-born man have an off day with the ball, and very few batsmen have been able to dominate him over long stretches of play.
His accuracy and radar ensures that he remains in the hunt for wickets at any period in the game, and there will no doubt be plenty more to come in the years to come.
At 26, Cummins is just starting to hit his peak years. And, if he can replicate the longevity of McGrath, then he will finish his career as one of the greatest pacers of all time.
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