Pace ace Pat Cummins believes England boasts a “pretty competent” tail and cannot expect any favours from an n attack ready to maintain a bumper barrage.
Former England captain Mike Atherton has sparked debate over whether n speedsters Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Cummins have been allowed to unfairly target the tourists’ bottom order through the opening three Tests, questioning whether the umpires should have intervened and warned the hosts of overly intimidatory bowling. Bowlers can receive two warnings before they are banished from the attack.
The laws of the game state that umpires must take into account the “skill of the striker”. England’s tail, particularly Stuart Broad and James Anderson, have struggled to deal with the tactic. However, Cummins, who was used an enforcer on the final day in Perth, said the Test records of Anderson and Broad reinforced they could handle such an attack.
“I think they’re all pretty competent batters. Stuart Broad’s got a Test-match hundred and Anderson’s got an 80-odd. Starcy, Hazlewood, Birdy [Jackson Bird] and I know we’re going to cop it as well so we spend lots of time in the nets working on it, working with the coaches and talking to other players about how to best defend it,” he said on Saturday.
“I think I’ve copped about 50 [bumpers] so far this series so we get back as much as we dish out.”
Cummins has shown he is a more than capable lower-order batsman this series, averaging 46, with three scores in the 40s.
With ball in hand, Cummins can be lethal – one thunderbolt crashed into the side of Anderson’s helmet on the final day in Perth but England’s greatest wicket-taker remained at the crease.
“You’re always concerned when someone gets hit in the head but, once you find out they’re OK, I think it’s part of cricket,” Cummins said.
“Hopefully, it will always stay part of cricket. It’s one of the thrills of bowling fast, trying to unsettle the batsman when the pitch might not have sideways movement or swing so, hopefully, it stays around out game.”
Bird, who will replace Starc for the Boxing Day Test unless the injured spearhead can overcome a heel problem, said the ns followed a plan.
“I don’t think in any game of cricket we go out to intentionally to hurt the opposition. If anyone from the opposition does get hit, tailender or not, there is genuine concern from us as a team about their well-being,” he said.
“It’s more of a tactical thing. It’s something that we use to get the tail end out as quickly and as possible.”
Anderson has since said on a BBC podcast that the speed of the n attack had not been the issue for the tourists, who trail 3-0 heading into the Melbourne Test beginning on Tuesday.
“It’s not necessarily the pace but where the ball is and the plans they’ve had have worked well. Even me as a No. 11, you get used to that pace,” he said.
“I honestly don’t think the pace has actually caused us any issues. If you look at our dismissals, we sometimes haven’t necessarily got out to the good balls.”
Anderson averages 10.14 in Test cricket has passed 50 only once, while Broad averages 20.46 but has passed the half-century mark 11 times, with his lone century against Pakistan at Lord’s in 2010.
MCG curator Michael Salvatore said more grass had been left on the wicket this week in a bid to ensure a result. State teams have privately questioned the pitches this season after three draws.
He said there would be pace and bounce early with “hopefully” spin having a greater say later in the game.
“We have left a bit more grass on this wicket and the previous two Sheffield Shield games have been affected by weather. So that affected our ability to get a result. I am confident this wicket will be able to achieve a result,” he said.
Steve Smith, in destructive form this summer and branded ‘s best batsman since Sir Donald Bradman, enjoys a superb record in Melbourne, thumping 638 runs at 127.6 in eight Test innings. He has centuries, including two unbeaten knocks, in his past three Tests at the MCG.
“Sometimes you get a feel for the wickets. Hopefully I can get a bit of rhythm out here again,” Smith said.
Cricket hopes for a crowd on Tuesday in excess of 91,092, beating the record set on day one when these nations met in 2013-14. All general public tickets have been sold out. Strong crowds are also expected on days two and three.