Aussie golden boy’s incredible revival
Nearly eight years ago, Pat Cummins pulled an Imran Tahir wrong'un to the boundary to secure Australia's nailbiting two-wicket win over South Africa in Johannesburg.
It signalled the end of a magical Test debut for the then-18-year-old, who was fresh from taking six second-inning wickets and seven for the match.
Among Cummins' victims were legends Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers - men who had dominated international cricket and will go down as some of the best batsman the world has ever seen.
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But here was a teenager ripping through them on his way to a man of the match award in his first outing wearing the baggy green.
Australia knew it had something special in Cummins, who was destined to be the country's new golden boy. Big things were expected from the fast bowler and a long career at the top beckoned but injuries threatened to ruin that plan as he spent more time in rehab than at the bowling crease.
Fast forward to 2019 and Cummins is indeed the force of nature he showed he could be during that astonishing debut. It's just taken him longer than expected to prove it.
Cummins took his 100th Test wicket during the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston this month, becoming the second-quickest Australian paceman to reach the milestone and the fastest in 124 years. He hit triple figures in his 21st Test - four more than Charlie Turner, who picked up his century of scalps in his 17th match against England in 1895.
Considering he had to wait six years between his first and second Tests, it's a mark many doubted Cummins would ever reach.
"I kind of had it in the back of my mind but forgot about it until (Nathan) Lyon ran up to me and patted me on the back," Cummins told reporters on Sunday when asked about the 100-wicket milestone.
"Really special, two years ago I was trying to look for my second game, so to get 100 wickets, I'm pretty proud of that achievement.
"I'd like to keep that pace up (21 Tests). I don't think I will. I've had a good run the last couple of games so hopefully can keep it going, (I'm) really enjoying it."
For a man who watched more cricket than he played in those six years between Tests, Cummins' rise from injury-plagued prodigy to Australian ironman is extraordinary.
His medical records read like a novel. There was the heel injury that cut him down after his first Test match, a side strain and stress fracture in his back in 2012 and more back injuries in 2013 and 2015.
The wretched run of injuries not only limited Cummins to one Test in six years, he managed just one Sheffield Shield game in that time too. But Australian cricket officials knew they'd struck gold with the generational talent and kept him on the books - and he's repaid them with interest, becoming not just Australia's best and most reliable quick, but arguably its most important cricketer, especially during the year-long absences of Steve Smith and David Warner.
Since being thrust back into the Test team against India in 2017, Cummins has enjoyed an extended run that's seen him fulfil the potential everybody knew was there. He's played every Test bar two since that match in Ranchi - a prospect that seemed unthinkable during the days when his body broke down more often than a dodgy car - and he became Smith's, then Tim Paine's, go-to guy
Cummins is still quick - not as rapid as he once was, yet quick nevertheless - but he's added to his repertoire and is capable of so much more than just blasting batsmen out.
His brilliant effort on day five at Edgbaston last week was testament to Cummins' wide-ranging skill set. On a dead wicket offering far more for the spinners than the quicks, he took four wickets in 11.3 overs - three of them with short balls - to pilot Australia to victory with Nathan Lyon's help as the tweaker took six scalps.
"It's those kinds of spells you remember the most when it's to win a Test match, day five wicket, didn't feel like there was a lot in it for us bowlers up to that point," Cummins said in the lead-up to the second Test at Lord's.
"But one of those moments where I felt in really good rhythm, the ball was hard, there seemed to be a bit of zip in the wicket and that's when I love it.
"Trying to break up a partnership or get that crucial wicket to win the match - I love that. So I enjoy that role when it comes off, when it doesn't it's normally pretty hard work, but yeah I enjoy that day five."
Cummins is the perfect package - a gamebreaker and a workhorse all in one. When his captain calls, he usually delivers, and he's especially valuable in conditions that favour the batsmen.
Look at his nine wickets on a dead track against India at the MCG last summer, for example. The tougher it is, the better he is.
Cummins doesn't get the same prodigious outswing he did as a youngster but he always seems to find something extra that makes even the most well-set batsman think twice about deliveries headed their way. A bit of extra bounce here or a touch of movement off the seam there - the 26-year-old does just enough to ensure he's always a threat.
Alongside a resurgent James Pattinson and veteran Peter Siddle, Australia's fast men formed a formidable attack in Birmingham and the pace battery only gets more intimidating when you consider Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood are waiting in the wings to get their first taste of Ashes action this series.
There's been speculation Starc and/or Hazlewood may find themselves back in the starting XI for the second Test at Lord's with the possibility of Siddle being substituted out on a horses-for-courses basis or Pattinson being rested to give his fragile body even more rest.
The only certainty is Cummins will be one of the first names inked on the team sheet, giving him the opportunity to play his first ever Test at the home of cricket.
"I was running drinks during (the Ashes in) 2015 and (it was) a pretty special occasion," Cummins said. "The first thing that stuck out to me was everyone starts popping champagne bottles with the first ball, so on the sideline I remember dodging corks for the first hour.
"It's going to be pretty exciting."