Pat Cummins comes to life to give Australia’s Cricket World Cup campaign lift-off – The Guardian

The captain has looked tired of late but for a key period he exerted his will on the contest with Sri Lanka
For a couple of hours on Monday afternoon in Lucknow, Australia’s World Cup looked cooked. It wasn’t just that Sri Lanka’s openers were scoring with ease – good teams have passages of play go against them. It was the sense that everything was running against Australia, that nothing was working. In the first over, Mitchell Starc convinced his captain Pat Cummins to go for an lbw review that was not out for about six different reasons. That meant that in the 10th over Cummins was reluctant to review a Glenn Maxwell lbw appeal that would have been given out.
It was the kind of self-inflicted injury that goes against struggling teams. This after Pathum Nissanka’s edge from Maxwell was missed behind the stumps, and Kusal Perera was reprieved when Starc wasn’t game to take off the bails after the non-striker left his ground early. The pair made hay in a wicketless stand of 125, against an Australian team whose tournament to date had involved being bowled out twice short of 200, dropping about a dozen catches, and after 12 good balls to begin their tournament against India in Chennai had since conceded 625 runs for eight wickets in 107 overs.
Cummins especially has looked tired. That checks out: this year he backed up the home season with a Test tour to India, the World Test Championship final, the Ashes in England, and now this World Cup, while dealing with a major family bereavement and parenting a toddler. There is a weariness to his media engagements – an eloquent speaker devolved to the taciturn as he clips down answers to become brisker, more efficient, pruning off any protrusion that might let a critic gain purchase. He probably shouldn’t be captaining this format, rather than someone who could give it their full attention, but the ODI team has played so little in recent years that it barely exists as an entity.
Yet for a key period he exerted his will on the contest. The start was 10% Cummins, 90% David Warner. Cummins’ bouncer was bowl and hope, Nissanka hit it towards green fields at midwicket. But Warner has always been a Duracell rabbit, even if his energy has not always been directed to productive ends. His legs are twice as short as some but four times as fast. He motored across the grass, making up more ground than seemed possible, sliding into position to take a catch whose difficulty the television cameras did not adequately convey.
The next wicket was all Cummins, around the wicket to deck a ball into the left-handed Perera, beating his shot and lighting up his stumps. Hitting the hard length that is the quintessential Cummins trait, getting movement off the pitch, shouting his celebration, suddenly the Australian captain came to life. Sri Lanka’s openers were gone for 61 and 78. Later Cummins would produce a direct-hit run out from mid on, the garnish on his own performance.
The third wicket of the day, though, mattered most. Kusal Mendis has been in monster form, Adam Zampa has only been scaring his own team. Mendis was stand-in captain, having played two dazzlers in his last two starts, surveying the scene at 165 for two with 22 overs left to punish the opposition. Zampa had bowled his first three overs for 22, been dragged, and came back to concede seven more from five balls. Mendis aimed to make it 11 from the over with his slog sweep.
Instead it was Warner again. In the previous match against South Africa he was the only one to take his catches while all around him were losing theirs. In the current match came the toughest, 25 yards to reach deep midwicket, a swirling high ball with an unclear drop zone, taking it while tumbling, knee sinking into turf, jarring his whole body hard into the ground before rolling across it. He got up slowly, spoke to the physio, walked off the discomfort, but held onto the ball. With a 37th birthday before this month is out, a player that some have wanted dropped for years still proves his indispensability, even to his physical cost.
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If you think in terms of teamwork, that lifted Zampa too. On the first ball of his next over, the spinner drew a leg-before decision against Sadeera Samarawickrama, who had also made a century in his previous start six days ago. Zampa didn’t complete the hat-trick, but did get two more lbws to end his day with four wickets from his eight overs, a problem with back spasms seeing him defer the risk of injury rather than glory hunt for five. Australia’s hopes in this tournament rely heavily on their spinner, who after two bad outings is now back in the fray.
A win is just one win, but it might be a start. Like the signage at the Lucknow stadium that came crashing down mid-match in high winds, a campaign that had been falling apart has now had a few cable ties strategically applied. It will hold for four days, but the next date against Pakistan in Bengaluru will be essential to cinch it tightly enough to last.


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