Shield return puts Cummins in Ashes frame

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Playing Shield cricket one of my goals for the year – Cummins

Pat Cummins will officially return to contention for a place in Australia’s Ashes team for next summer when he plays his first Sheffield Shield match in almost six years, for New South Wales against South Australia at the SCG from Tuesday.

Cummins made his state debut at 17 and his Test debut later that year, before a series of foot and back injuries prompted the national selectors and Cricket Australia’s medical staff to drastically alter their plans for him.

Now 23, Cummins’ body is approaching a point of maturity that is hoped will reduce his risk of injuries, after the fashion of the incumbent Test bowlers Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood. As such, he is now in line to play in the Shield for the Blues and possibly Australia A in South Africa later this year ahead of next summer’s home Ashes series.

“There’s the Ashes, which is a goal for probably everyone playing Shield cricket this year at the moment,” Cummins told reporters in Sydney. “I think for me getting back into first-class cricket was the No.1 goal for the year and I’m absolutely pumped to be back. I think if I get through these games then hopefully next year I can start off the year just like any other cricketer.”

Cummins’ bowling action has gone through numerous adjustments over time, while his range of skills and experiences have broadened to add to his capabilities this week. While Cummins always demonstrated exceptional intelligence for a fast bowler, as evidenced by his memorable display against South Africa at the Wanderers on his 2011 Test debut, it has taken time for his body to catch up to his mind.

“Probably given the extra week that we waited after the T20s has just given me a chance to prepare for the game once I got back in the frame for playing Shield cricket,” Cummins said. “I just wanted to go in [to Shield cricket] with no restrictions and not have to think about my body really, so all good.

“I feel like I’m a lot more consistent now than I probably was a couple of years ago, and I think that’s put down to a few things. I think having a long pre-season, I was able to just work on quite a consistent rhythm and tempo rather than trying to bowl 180kms every ball.

“I think the beauty of red-ball cricket is the ball normally swings out here [in Sydney]. After some rain hopefully it might seam around a little bit so actually bowling within yourself that 5 or 10% can actually provide some better results. Pace is one tool a bowler uses, but it’s not the be-all and end-all.”

NSW have also added the English wristspinner Mason Crane to their squad for the match after a series of stand-out performances in Sydney grade cricket. However, the same overcast and damp weather that may aid Cummins to swing the ball may work against Crane’s chances of a Shield debut as the second spinner behind Will Somerville’s off-breaks.

The Blues need to win both their remaining matches outright to have a chance of making the Shield final, while their opponents South Australia are in second place and can solidify their own chances with victory at the SCG.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

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Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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