Pat Cummins believes David Warner will keep his top-order spot at Old Trafford as Australia seeks a victory to secure the Ashes and prevent the series from coming to a decider.
Warner’s status has come under review following his double failure against Stuart Broad at Headingley, making it 17 times he has been defeated by Broad, with Australia attempting to determine whether Cameron Green can be reintroduced into the XI.
Since 2021, Warner has averaged 28.17 in 23 Tests, including a double century against South Africa at the MCG on Boxing Day last year. In a strong indication that he was still part of Australia’s plans, he was part of the slip cordon during practice on Monday. Despite admitting the selectors had not yet convened, Cummins praised Warner’s performances in the series, where he has opened with opening runs of 61, 73, and 63 with Usman Khawaja.
“We’ll talk about it, but I expect it to stay the same,” Cummins said of the starting lineup. “I believe [Warner] has been doing very well.” He was pretty impressive at Lord’s. Like many of us, he didn’t contribute as much as he would have liked with the bat last week.
“He’s been out there putting in a lot of work over the last couple of days, but I think this tour, he’s shown a lot of good signs but hasn’t quite kicked on to make that big score.” Some of the innings he’s pitched under harsh conditions have made it simple for [Steven] Smith to come in and score runs or the like.”
If Warner is retained, the only chance for Green to return is to be in place of Todd Murphy, leaving Australia with an all-pace attack supplemented by Travis Head, who did have a lengthy session in the nets on Monday. Murphy was utilized sparingly at Headingley, and Cummins looked to hedge his bets slightly on the outcome.
Because England’s innings last fewer overs (they have batted more than 80 only once in the series, and that was by nine balls in the second innings at Lord’s), a spinner has less opportunity to make an impact, especially if conditions favor the quicks. However, there’s no doubt that Nathan Lyon would be locked in the side if he was fit.
“Every situation is different,” stated Cummins. “We’ve played games with one quick and games with a slew of quicks. Everything is actually conditional. As I mentioned last week about Toddy, I would have liked to bowl him a few more overs, but there weren’t a lot of overs in the game, and the ball looked to swing and seam a little bit, so that’s something to think about this week.”
Australia is about to embark on a two-week journey defining how this tour – and this team – are remembered.
Aside from selection difficulties, Australia is about to enter a two-week stretch that will define how this trip – and this team – are remembered. If they win at Old Trafford, they will have finished the job before The Oval, with their first series triumph in England since 2001. Fail from a 2-0 lead, and 2019’s squandered opportunity will pale in comparison.
So much of Australia’s tour strategy has been focused on them being able to peak near the finish if necessary, which is how things are playing out after they tripped up at Headingley.
After most players took a week off, the group finally reassembled in Manchester on Sunday. Some have questioned whether that was the best use of time with the series on the line. Still, Cummins has experience with the 2019 tour, which did include a couple of tour matches, and while the team was able to win at Old Trafford, they ran out of steam at The Oval, even though the trip also included the ODI World Cup beforehand.
“I didn’t play a tour match, so I was able to grab those windows, but for a lot of the guys after the Test finished, they were off to play a tour match somewhere,” he explained. “You’ll hear us talk about trying to give players as many breaks as we can because a 60-day tour with 30 days of cricket is already pretty hectic.”
“That’s part of how we planned this tour around our preparation, and even for a few of us missing IPLs or having shortened IPLs so that when we get to this stage, we feel as prepared as we can.”
“If you look back at some of our recent tours, we played some of our best cricket at the end, whether in Pakistan or India.” Hopefully, this one will be the same, although being more accustomed to the conditions. And, happily, except for Nath [Lyon], we don’t have any injury concerns, so everything is in place.”
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