Cool-head Cummins stands tall with bat again

Pat Cummins has helped win a game for Australia with the bat for the third time in 2023, closing out the World Cup semi-final against South Africa.

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Pat Cummins has once again proved he's the man for a batting crisis.

Five months on from his Ashes heroics at Edgbaston and a week after partnering with Glenn Maxwell to steer Australia home against Afghanistan, Cummins has done it again against South Africa.

This time, Australia's captain was required to add only 20 runs for the eighth wicket with Mitchell Starc on Thursday night, but those runs couldn't have been harder to glean on a spinner's wicket in Kolkata – and with a World Cup final place at stake.

Brought to the crease at Eden Gardens with the ball spinning and Proteas quick Gerald Coetzee on a roll, Australia were a real chance of falling out of the World Cup.

In control at one stage at 0-60 chasing 213, Australia had fallen to 5-137 when Maxwell came and went in a flurry.

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The situation looked equally dicey at 7-193, with only 20 required to win but no recognised batters left.

Cummins, though, is playing with all the composure of a genuine batsman this year.

He and Starc soaked up 45 balls to get the required 20, working singles and only taking on the very loose deliveries.

Cummins alleviated some of the pressure when he guided Coetzee down to the backward-point boundary for four early in his stay.

That made it 14 to win.

He was dropped with nine runs still to go, but kept his calm following that and fittingly hit the cut shot to the boundary off Marco Jansen to get Australia home.

"I think it's easier out there than sitting in the dugout," Cummins, who finished 14 not out, quipped afterwards.

"It was a nerve-wracking couple of hours."

The beauty of Cummins' match-winning efforts in 2023 is that none have been the same.

With Nathan Lyon at Edgbaston in the first Ashes Test, the 55 Australia required with two wickets in hand looked almost impossible.

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There, Cummins attacked early to put the pressure back on England, before having to be the man to lead the partnership with Lyon with an unbeaten 44.

Last week, it was the complete opposite in his record-breaking 202-run unbeaten eighth-wicket stand with Maxwell to win the match.

While Maxwell smashed 201no from 128 balls, Cummins simply had to survive at the other end with one of the slowest ODI knocks in recent history with 12 from 68.

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Making it all the more remarkable is that before 2023, Cummins' batting had tailed off at international level since becoming captain.

After skipping the IPL this year, he spent April and May at home working on his batting and hitting thousands of balls with coach Trent Woodhill.

"Over the last couple of years I found switching between formats hard," Cummins said in June. 

"I feel like my T20 batting has got a lot better, probably at the detriment to Test rhythm at time. 

"Hopefully, there can be a bit more of a balance between the two."

Cummins, it appears, has now found that balance.