01/03/2024

Pat Cummins after defeating England in the first test. Photo: cricket.com.au

When Pat Cummins came to the crease on day five at Edgbaston, Australia was staring down the barrel of a series deficit. Yet, the skipper showed he has what it takes to lead Australia into the ‘new era’.

Such is the nature of test cricket, away wins are so difficult to obtain, and in Ashes series’ it is taken to the next level.

Despite Australia winning the Edgbaston test in 2019, previously it had not won at the venue since 2001. The Birmingham stadium is still widely regarded as one of the hardest places to win for visiting teams, and the Australians had their backs against the wall for the entire test.

In the previous two Ashes series it has played, Australia has been coached by one of its greatest-ever opening batters, Justin Langer. However, Langer left the job in February 2022, with Australia under the leadership of Andrew McDonald, and Cummins who had only been in the job for a little over two months.

The transition was not as seamless as many within Cricket Australia would have liked, with many past players and fans voicing their disappointment at Langer’s departure.

Following Langer’s dismissal, Cummins issued a statement, with the keywords in that statement being: ‘To all past players, I want to say this – just as you have stuck up for your mates, I’m sticking up for mine.’

Australian cricket has changed a lot since the infamous Cape Town test against South Africa in 2018, and it was clear from this speech that a new era was once again upon Australia.

It’s an era that centres around mateship, the Australian players had got what they wanted with Langer leaving. Although, in order to prove his new critics wrong, Cummins was going to have to make his performances on the field count.

With 281 runs required for victory in the first test, it was scenes eerily similar to the Edgbaston battle of 2005, where England emerged victorious in the most dramatic circumstances. Australia needed 282 for victory on that day and found themselves 7/137 at one stage. Despite a determined run chase, Australia fell three runs shy of victory in heartbreaking scenes.

Australian fans had seen this all too familiar story unfold before, and they did not like the ending.

Throughout the entirety of its history, in times of need, the Australian cricket captain has stood strong. Whether that be Ricky Ponting wearing a cut from a vicious bouncer, Steve Waugh making emotion-charged centuries, Tim Paine digging in for an unlikely draw, or even Michael Clarke playing through injury in the toughest of circumstances.

It was evident that if Australia was to pull off a miraculous win, it was going to have to rely on its captain to stand up and drag the team to victory.

Well, stand up he did.

The Australian captain smashed his way to an unbeaten 44 from 73 deliveries, the innings also featuring a remarkable six boundaries. The final boundary came from a glorious guide past third man, and after a misfield from Harry Brook, the Australians had officially pulled off the great escape.

Cricketing legends from both England and Australia are often remembered for their performances in Ashes series. Although Australia has won the World Test Championship, broken its Pakistan hoodoo, and dominated both South Africa and the West Indies at home under the guidance of Cummins and head coach Andrew McDonald, there was a different feel to this.

It might not give the visitors immediate silverware, but it has well and truly put them on the path to achieving the first away Ashes victory since 2001. Most importantly, Australia is in pole position to retain the coveted earn that both countries strive enormous amounts for.

Finally, Australia had an Edgbaston thriller fall its way, and it was down to its captain, who played one of the most inspirational innings of all time, in one of the most inspirational leadership performances of all time.

The second test begins on Wednesday at Lord’s in London, where England will look to level the series one apiece.

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