Focussed Cummins puts new slant on Lord's old quirks
Australia spearhead unfussed by theories to capitalise on Lord's slope as he prepares for maiden Test at the iconic venue
Andrew Ramsey in London
12 August 2019, 07:02 AM AEST
Pat Cummins might be the world's number one Test bowler, but he's never played a match at the long-form game's spiritual home.
That career anomaly will be addressed on Wednesday, and even though the 26-year-old will be making his maiden Test appearance at Lord's he knows what to expect.
Firstly, as he noted when part of the Australia men's team playing squad in 2015, the venerable members of the Marylebone Cricket Club who populate the seats in front of the historic pavilion are permitted to bring bottled wine into the ground.
As a result, the crescendo that invariably greets the first ball of a Test at venues worldwide is punctuated by the popping of champagne corks in north London.
The other quirk with which Cummins will need to come to grips early in his first match at the home of cricket is the slope that sees the north-west boundary sit seven feet higher than the fence on the south-east side.
The fact that Cummins took the first over (for only the second time in his Test career) in the Ashes series opener at Edgbaston means he will notionally be given first choice of which end he operates from at Lord's.
But while proximity to the fizz pit and the potential distraction it might pose is unlikely to impact that decision, the prospect of having the ball move into or away from batters depending on the slope is a factor that will figure prominently in match-day planning.
As Cummins confirmed after Australia's first training run at the ground on Sunday, that discussion has yet to be convened.
"It's a funny one, it seems like everyone has a theory on which end to bowl here," Cummins said.
"People reckon they nip it down the hill, people reckon they nip it up the hill, I've got no idea.
"You normally settle into an end, I haven't bowled enough here – I've played one-dayers and haven't found too much of a difference, but I don't know.
"I think every time you play here it (talk of the slope) comes up and it's just one of those nuances of this ground, but it's still a cricket pitch.
"I don't think it makes too much of a difference."
What is likely to be of greater consequence for Cummins is how quickly he can find his rhythm, which was a crucial element in Australia's 251-run win at Edgbaston.
Cummins conceded that it took him some time to settle into his work in the opening Test, and the fact he was literally leading the attack was cited as a contributing factor.
The only other time in his injury-disrupted Test career that he's bowled the opening over in a rival team's first innings came in markedly different circumstances to day one of an Ashes campaign at one of England's most raucous venues.
It was in the Bangladeshi port city of Chittagong on a dry, dusty surface when he took the new ball before off-spinner Nathan Lyon was given the second over from the opposite end.
Cummins said the nervous energy that came with playing his first Ashes Test in England, coupled with the reality he had spent the previous months playing solely limited-overs cricket as part of Australia's World Cup mission made the transition to the Test role more problematic.
"I felt like with each spell I got a little bit better and better," Cummins reflected on his outing at Edgbaston.
"I hadn't played a lot of red-ball cricket coming into the first day's play, and I think just trying to find that tempo of Test cricket, it's slightly different to white ball.
"I think mixed into that the excitement and the nerves of first spell in Ashes over here.
"I was pretty pumped up and felt probably by the lunch session I was into my work and pretty happy how I was going.
"Definitely by the end of the game, I felt a lot better than that first spell."
That assessment is borne out by the scorecard which shows Cummins and Lyon shared all 10 England wickets that fell on the final day, with Cummins claiming 4-32 from 11.3 overs.
He had also snared three wickets in England's first innings, albeit from 33 overs bowled, to reach 100 Test scalps in just his 21st appearance.
While he doesn't expect to be able to maintain that remarkable strike rate as his career progresses, Cummins will take special memories from his maiden Ashes appearance in the UK that gave Australia a 1-0 lead in the five-match series.
And although the 100-wicket milestone was one of those, his day-five role as Australia stormed to their first win at Edgbaston since 2001 seems certain to remain clearer in mind during the decades that follow.
"It's those kinds of spells you remember the most, when it's to win a Test match (on a) day-five wicket.
"I didn't feel like there was a lot in it for us bowlers up to that point, but it was one of those moments where I felt in really good rhythm, the ball was hard, there seemed to be a bit of zip in the wicket and that's when I love it.
"Trying to break up a partnership or get that crucial wicket to win the match, I love that, so I enjoy that role when it comes off.
"When it doesn't, it's normally pretty hard work."
2019 Qantas Ashes Tour of England
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.
England squad: Joe Root (c), Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jack Leach, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes (vc), Chris Woakes.
First Test: Australia beat England by 251 runs at Edgbaston
Second Test: August 14-18,Lord's
Third Test: August 22-26, Headingley
Tour match: Australians v Derbyshire, August 29-31
Fourth Test: September 4-8, Old Trafford
Fifth Test: September 12-16, The Oval