Melbourne — Pat Cummins needed only a few hours to crush 65 years of Australian scepticism over fast-bowling captains as he torched England with a five-wicket haul on the opening day of the Ashes on Wednesday.
Cummins replaced Tim Paine in the top job in November after the wicketkeeper resigned abruptly over a sexting scandal, becoming the first quick to lead the side since Ray Lindwall captained for one Test in the mid-1950s against India.
There was plenty of concern over how Cummins would handle stepping up in the pressure of an Ashes series, but the 28-year-old strolled off with team best figures of 5/38, having helped roll England for 147 by tea.
“Pretty crazy ... it’s all gone to plan so far,” Cummins said. “You’re always in the game on the morning of day one. “The body felt decent. I’ve bowled better before and haven’t got as many rewards.”
Though Cummins was vice-captain under Paine, Australian media pundits had fretted over how he would juggle captaincy and bowling.
Cummins said he would lean heavily on vice-captain Steve Smith, who led the Test side for more than 30 matches before losing his job amid the 2018 Newlands ball-tampering scandal.
Cummins said he had plenty of good advice from his teammates on day one but in truth he had few big decisions to make or crises to overcome.
England skipper Joe Root won the toss, sparing Cummins the conundrum of whether to bat or bowl on a grassy wicket.
“It’s tradition that if you bowl first and it doesn’t work out you get hounded, whereas if you bat first and it doesn’t come off you kind of get left alone,” he said.
“I was probably going to bat but I think it’s 50-50. I thought it wasn’t going to have a huge bearing on the match.”
Then it was over to the Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, who set up a perfect morning. Starc bowled Rory Burns first ball, while Hazlewood removed Root for a duck in a two-wicket burst that left England reeling at 11/3 in the opening half-hour.
Cummins’ teammates were flawless in the field for their captain, catching all nine of their chances, with debutant wicketkeeper Alex Carey notching three dismissals and the slips fielders razor-sharp.
Hazlewood, fielding in the deep, bolted forward twice to take two brilliant low catches, the first to give young all-rounder Cameron Green his first Test wicket and the second to complete Cummins’ five-fer.
Having failed to get a wicket against India over the last home summer, Green was ecstatic.
Cummins was amused when Green later apologised to him.
“He said, ‘Sorry, I think I probably celebrated too hard’ ... I was like, ‘It’s Test cricket, mate, you can do what you want!’”
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