Qantas Tour of South Africa
Cummins well placed for Proteas: Smith
Aussie skipper excited by prospect of Blues tearaway after outstanding - and injury-free - home Ashes series
16 February 2018, 12:31 PM AEST
Australia captain Steve Smith has singled out the feats of Pat Cummins across a hectic summer, with the Blues speedster completing his maiden home Test series both injury free and having made a sizeable impact.
Cummins played all five Tests of the Magellan Ashes and finished on top of the wicket-takers list, claiming 23 victims as he consistently tested England with a mix of sustained short-pitched assaults and high-quality line and length bowling.
His involvement in the series meant he doubled his career caps; he now has 10 Test matches to his name despite debuting as an 18-year-old way back in November 2011.
In the intervening period, Cummins was ravaged by injuries, severely hampering his career progression, but 2017 was a breakthrough year for the 24-year-old, who returned to Test cricket in India and has been the lone paceman to play every match in the Baggy Green since.
"Six-and-a-half years ago Pat made his Test debut in South Africa, and made an immediate impact on Test cricket because he's an exceptional talent," Smith wrote for Fox Sports in reference to that debut, in which he took seven wickets, hit the winning runs and was named player of the match.
"He's had a tough time with injuries since then but, after a pretty intense summer of cricket, is in a really good place both mentally and with his body.
"He's really excited to have been able to get through the whole summer, having never gone through a full season before … so to get through five (Tests) and play the way he did was pretty special.
"As we saw in the Ashes, Pat is able to switch it on in key moments. His batting has been incredibly valuable – particularly in the first two Test matches where the 40s he got were so crucial to the end result.
"He's a great talent and he's just going to better and better the more he plays – and we all can't wait to see how he goes in this series."
Australia remain unconquered in South Africa since the Proteas' readmission to Test cricket following Apartheid, a remarkable achievement that only shines the spotlight brighter on the current crop, who headed across the Indian Ocean on Thursday ahead of the four-Test series that begins on March 1.
The two sides have not met in a four-Test series since 1970 in South Africa, when the home team thrashed the Australians four-nil.
However, Smith was part of more recent history; he was a key figure in the 2014 side that prevailed 2-1 across three Tests, wresting the No.1 Test ranking from South Africa's grasp in the process.
"There's huge motivation to do well in Africa," he told cricket.com.au. "I think back to when we went over there and won that series, off the back of what was an impressive Ashes campaign as well.
"There's no reason why we can't replicate that. I think the guys have made some really good strides.
"We're playing good cricket, it's about just continuing to improve and hopefully win some games away from home."
Qantas tour of South Africa
Australia squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine, Jhye Richardson, Chadd Sayers, Mitchell Starc.
Warm-up match v SA Invitational XI, Sahara Park, Benoni, Feb 22-24
First Test Kingsmead, Durban, March 1-5
Second Test St George's Park, Port Elizabeth, March 9-13
Third Test Newlands, Cape Town, March 22-26
Fourth Test Wanderers, Johannesburg, March 30-April 3