x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Pat Cummins takes history in his stride for Australia

The 18 year old became the youngest Test debutant to take six wickets in an innings.

A year ago Pat Cummins was playing grade cricket. Now, at 18, he has emerged as Australia's next great fast-bowling hope.

After taking six for 79 in South Africa's second innings to give his team a chance of winning the second and final Test at the Wanderers Stadium, Cummins said: "It's surreal just to be overseas, playing cricket for Australia and to be in a position where we can win a game."

The haul made Cummins the youngest bowler in Test history to take five or more wickets in an innings on his Test debut, but Cummins said age was not a big factor.

"I don't feel much younger than the other guys," he said.

"I've been here for a month and half, hanging around with the same bunch of guys and getting more familiar with them."

Although he had played only three first-class matches for New South Wales before his Test debut, he said playing with and against adults was nothing new. "I've been playing grade cricket for three or four years."

Cummins also revealed plenty of maturity when he spoke about his approach to bowling in the Test match. Although capable of bowling at close to 150kph, he said he had cut down slightly on his pace yesterday in order to take advantage of early morning conditions that favoured swing.

There was no holding back on Saturday, though, when in the words of his teammate Shane Watson he "worked over" Jacques Kallis, the fourth highest Test run scorer of all time.

He sent down several vicious short balls to Kallis before having him caught at slip for two.

"Yeah, he's obviously someone who has been a stalwart of the game," Cummins said. "He's been an unbelievable player for South Africa. The plan was to give him a couple of short balls and if we could tie him up a bit outside off stump he might fish at one. Fortunately that worked."

Cummins said that although he would "love" to play as many Test matches as possible, he was not taking anything for granted, especially not being selected for Australia's first home Test of the season starting in Brisbane on December 1.

"We'll have to see what happens. Ryan Harris has gone home and hopefully he's got his injury right and he'll be right to go in Brisbane. It will be up to the selectors."

Cummins even showed an ability to win over the media saying he had not yet turned on his telephone to make contact with anyone in Australia. "I pretty much came straight here. I thought this was more important," he said to laughter from journalists at a post-play news conference.

A century partnership between Usman Khawaja (65) and Ricky Ponting (54 not out) enabled Australia to reach 142 for three at the close, 168 runs short of achieving the highest successful run chase at the Wanderers. Khawaja was caught at slip off leg-spinner Imran Tahir one ball before bad light ended play after he and Ponting had put on 122 for the third wicket to put the Australians in with a real chance of levelling the series.

However, Hashim Amla, who top-scored for South Africa with 105 in their second innings total of 339, felt that the Proteas were still slight favourites.

"The wicket is not easy to bat on and at certain times it seems to act up more than others. It seems to be a bit more lively in the mornings. If we can pick up early wickets we can put a lot of pressure on Australia."

The target seemed a distant one when Watson padded up to Vernon Philander and was bowled by the second ball of Australia's second innings. Philander followed up in his next over when Phil Hughes was caught at second slip.

But Khawaja and Ponting, both with points to prove, batted sensibly to blunt South Africa's attack.

Khawaja, playing in his fourth Test, made his first Test half-century, while Ponting, in his 156th appearance, reached double figures for the first time in the series and went on to pass fifty for the 96th time in his career.