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Ashes 2021/22

Is Pat Cummins already one of the great fast bowlers?

by Wisden Staff 5 minute read

Mitchell Starc and Scott Boland were Australia’s wicket-takers late on day two of the third Ashes Test at the MCG, but Pat Cummins caught the eye once again.

Following up first-innings figures of 3-36 – he single-handedly dismantled England’s top three – the Australian captain won plenty of plaudits for his six-over spell on Monday, marking another impressive burst in a career that simply moves from one high to another.

First, let’s have a look at Cummins’ numbers in the Ashes. Ten wickets in this series of far, at an average of 13.90, have moved him to 62 wickets against England at an average of 20.56. In the 21st century, only one man has taken more Ashes wickets at a lower average, Glenn McGrath (91 wickets at 20.48). Only Mitchell Johnson has taken more at a lower strike rate than Cummins (44.7) – the left-armer who terrorised England in the 2013/14 series averaged a wicket every 43.2 deliveries. The leading wicket-taker in the 2019 Ashes, when Australia retained the urn in England for the first time in 18 years, Cummins has succeeded at home and away in this high-profile contest.


But Cummins’ excellence is not strictly limited to matches against England. His 36-Test career so far has seen him play against seven different Test nations and against only one of those sides does he average more than 30 with the ball; two matches against Pakistan at home in 2019 resulted in eight wickets at 32.12. When it comes to performing abroad, he has played in five different nations and averages above 30 in just one of them, India, where eight wickets have come at 30.25.

Cummins has been limited to just 14 Tests away from home so far in his career, with Australia having not toured as a Test side since the 2019 Ashes. Nonetheless, his limited appearances abroad have seen him take 72 wickets at an average of 21.86. Since the start of 2017, the year Cummins began his second coming as a Test cricketer, Jasprit Bumrah is the only fast bowler to have taken more Test wickets away from home at a lower average than the 28-year-old.

Where does Cummins currently sit in the halls of great Australian Test bowlers? In regards to the wicket-taking charts, he remains a way off. Shane Warne leads the way with 708 scalps, while Glenn McGrath, the leading quick on the list, took 563 in 124 Tests; Cummins has 174. It’s interesting to see where McGrath stood after 36 Tests – the metronomic right-armer finished the 1997 Boxing Day Test with 164 wickets at an average of 23.42. McGrath was 27 at the time of that fixture and went on to get better and better, lowering his career average to 21.64 when he retired just under a decade later. The question for Cummins now is whether he can match the longevity of McGrath.

Cummins has the extra pressure of captaincy to contend with too, but for now things are running smoothly. He celebrated the added responsibility with a maiden Ashes five-for at the Gabba and, should things go to plan for him, he could go on to threaten Richie Benaud’s record for the most Test wickets as Australia captain – the leg-spinner took 138 wickets in 28 matches. Breaking that would be another box ticked in what is developing into a legendary career.

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