Cummins cuts loose in emotional home debut
PAT Cummins has the chance to announce himself as an Ashes game-breaker after claiming the head of the English snake at the Gabba.
The great hope of Australian cricket didn't disappoint in his long-awaited debut on home soil, and his emphatic dismissal of rival skipper Joe Root left an absorbing opening day hanging in the balance.
There would be no repeat of the Mitchell Johnson hurricane from four years ago, but on a grinding day for Australia, Cummins fought as hard as anyone and ultimately his class shone through.
On a desperately tight day of Ashes cricket, England went to stumps 4-196 from 80.3 overs with the grit shown by unheralded rookies Mark Stoneman (53) and James Vince (83) tempered by their stodgy run-rate.
Cummins and his fellow quicks will have a shiny second new ball in their hands this morning, and must take advantage of a Gabba wicket that started slow but eventually discovered its famed bounce and bite.
Australian selectors have some serious thinking to do moving forward this series, after Shaun Marsh's injury scare and a tough day in the field for the quicks shone a spotlight on their decision to go into the series with no all-rounder.
In their defence, there may not be a genuine all-rounder in the country that could replicate the role played by Shane Watson four years ago, but Australia could do without the anxiousness of feeling like they're living life on the edge by exposing the No.1 asset that is their pace attack.
However, Cummins eased some of those fears crashing through Stoneman's stumps and then cannoning into the pads of superstar Root.
The emotion built up from missing so many summers with injury since bursting onto the scene as an 18-year-old in South Africa back in 2011, was etched all over Cummins' face as he celebrated Root's wicket.
Cummins said his dismissal of Root was perhaps the most special of his career.
"It wasn't an overall plan to him but in terms of fast bowlers' wickets, it's pretty much the dream wicket," said Cummins.
"It's one of the most satisfying I'd ever got. To set him up with a couple of overs of out swing and then get him with a big in-swinger, that only comes off once in a 100 times but when it does, it's pretty special and fortunately it was their captain so I'm pretty happy with that.
"It's been such a long build up (to play first Test in Australia) and everyone has been talking about this game for months and months, so to get here and the packed house, the singing of the anthem, I thought how good's this."
Given not out by Umpire Marais Erasmus, Cummins was adamant Root had been struck plumb and the review confirmed that he was dead-on target.
It was fitting reward for 19 overs of toil but Australia must hit their mark this morning if they're to swing the Test in their favour.
Root is regarded as one of the best batsmen in world cricket, but dropped on the last Ashes tour in 2013-14, he now has plenty to think about after struggling his way to 15.
The threat posed by Cummins took on another dimension thanks to a beautiful combination he formed with spinner Nathan Lyon, whose figures of 0-40 from 24 overs did not do him justice.
Mitchell Starc (1-45) made the first breakthrough of the summer when he nicked off England's other senior man Alastair Cook in just the third over of the day, but from there he and Josh Hazlewood (0-51) failed to penetrate a slow Gabba pitch.
A mixture of nerves and a slightly off-game plan robbed Australia of the fire and brimstone approach they had declared they would take.
Shane Warne on Nine was critical of the Australian bowlers focusing too much on line and length and not enough on bringing the aggression to the England batsmen.
However, Warne was full of praise for the way Cummins and Lyon found their groove late and predicted it would be a combination that could play a key role this summer.
Lyon should have had the wicket of Vince for 68, only for wicketkeeper Tim Paine to grass a chance he should have held.
But the off-spinner got his revenge in a different way when he swooped on a Vince prod and shot the stumps down in stunning fashion.