28/02/2024

Australian Captain Pat Cummins speaks to the media on Tuesday morning. Image: cricket.com.au

Australian captain Pat Cummins has lauded the current depth in the Australian test set-up as the pandemic brings about more changes to the starting XI for the Fourth Test

Australian captain Pat Cummins has lauded the current depth in the Australian test set-up as the pandemic brings about more changes to the starting XI.

Fronting the media at the SCG on Tuesday morning on the eve of the Fourth Test, Cummins was full of praise for the team, as Usman Khawaja was confirmed to replace Travis Head who is quarantining after a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

Included for his first test since Leeds 2019, Khawaja is returning to a happy hunting ground in the SCG, where he averages 70.40 in five previous test matches.

Picked as someone who “could bat anywhere in the top six” Cummins is expecting a big performance from Khawaja, someone who he believes is well suited to immediately perform for the team.

“We feel fortunate that we can bring in someone like Ussie [Khawaja] who’s really well suited to perform straight away,” Cummins said.

Along with the inclusion of Khawaja, Cummins also confirmed after his standout performance in Melbourne, Scott Boland would be given another opportunity as a starting member of the fast-bowling cartel.

While Cummins noted that if fit Hazlewood would’ve played, he is “really glad” that Boland gets a second test.

“It would’ve been a shame for Scotty not to have played after his efforts last week… I’m really glad he gets another crack out there,” he said.

Casting his eyes over the pitch and conditions, Cummins played down the prospect of seeing a traditional spin-friendly wicket, believing more “hard work” will be in for the bowlers.

“Traditionally over the past 10 years it’s been pretty hard work for the bowlers, I don’t see a lot that’s going to be different this week,

“I don’t think we are going to see it break up and turn and have that traditional dusty spin wicket from 10 plus years ago,

“It looks really even at the moment,” Cummins said.

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The absence of spin-friendly conditions also sees Mitchell Swepson left out of the line-up, after some suggestions he was ready to become Australia’s fourth debutant of the series.

And while Cummins would “love to have” Swepson in the line-up he is realistic in believing Australian pitches do not offer the right conditions to suit.

“We are itching to get him [Swepson] in the side,

“Probably with the amount of sub-continent tours we have coming up, it might be his opportunity,” Cummins said.

The selection squeeze does not look like stopping in a hurry, as Cummins confirmed Travis Head will return for the Hobart Test, and the likes of [Josh] Hazlewood and [Jhye] Richardson also recovering from injury to challenge for positions in the bowling line-up.

However, this competition for spots is seen as a positive by Cummins, who has lauded the depth of the current squad assembled.

From batters like [Travis] Head stepping up and [Cameron] Green having a standout summer, Cummins believes Australian cricket is set up for “the next three years.”

“The opportunity to debut three guys,

“Have guys like [Travis] Head who have stepped up midway through their career just really feels like we are set up for the next three years,

“He’s [Green] a genuine fifth bowling option he’s not a last resort, he’s there to take wickets, [I am] just really happy for him,” Cummins said.

The Fourth Ashes test starts tomorrow in Sydney, with Australia looking to further England’s pain and go up 4-0 in the series.

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