Cummins stays cool to guide Australia home
Tuesday 22 November 2011
Teenager Pat Cummins followed up his six-wicket haul on debut with the winning boundary as Australia secured a drawn series against South Africa in a frantic finish.
The 18-year-old was a hero with the ball earlier in the match and came in to bat with Australia wobbling on 292 for eight, still needing another 18 runs. He rode his luck, offering Dale Steyn a caught-and-bowled chance, before pulling the match-deciding four.
At the other end, Mitchell Johnson finished unbeaten on 40, while Brad Haddin's 55 and 39 from Mike Hussey had earlier helped nudge Australia towards their target of 310. Australia lost the opener in the two-match series by eight wickets in Cape Town, but seized their chance to make up for that disappointment. Cummins could hardly have made a more spectacular debut, and was named man of the match for his achievements.
"Just to get a Test match is unbelievable. Obviously this is a great win today, this just tops it off," he said. "It was great to bowl them out and to contribute was even better."
The New South Wales paceman has no batting pedigree to speak of but did not let that unsettle him when Peter Siddle's tame dismissal brought him to the middle. Johnson looked secure, but the inexperience of Cummins versus the seasoned professionals in South Africa's attack looked like a no-contest. Steyn got half a hand to the chance Cummins offered him, but with five still needed, South Africa skipper Graeme Smith brought Tahir back into the attack at the expense of man of the series Vernon Philander.
The audacious move almost paid off three balls in when off-spinner Tahir thought he had Cummins lbw. South Africa unsuccessfully challenged the decision and after leaving the next ball, Cummins crunched the fifth of the over away through midwicket to the boundary for victory.
Australia had been 142 for three overnight but they lost captain Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting early after a washed-out morning session. Philander pinned Hussey lbw and at 215 for six the tourists were in trouble, but a partnership of 72 between Haddin and Johnson gave them hope before Cummins saw them home.
"It's not just opposition players, but the Aussie guys know how good he is," said Clarke. "It is about now managing Cummins and making sure he becomes one of the all-time greats."
South Africa 266 & 339 Australia 296 & 310-8
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