Patrick Cummins will make his Scorchers debut on Thursday night. Image courtesy of dailytelegraph.com.au/Matthew Poon/News Limited
Back in the summer of 2010/11, when Australia’s Twenty20 tournament was still called the Big Bash before it became the current Big Bash League with eight franchise teams, a teenager from the Blue Mountains burst on to the scene for New South Wales, bowling with searing pace that only comes along a couple of times in a generation. That player was Patrick Cummins; he was equal-leading wicket-taker in that Big Bash and single-handedly destroyed Tasmania in the semi-final that season with 4/16 off his allocation. Since having a similar impact on his Test debut, when he was awarded Man of the Match honours in a thrilling win over South Africa, fans have barely sighted the lanky right-armer as stress fractures in his back and foot injuries have held him back from unleashing on the international cricketing community.
Just as it seemed there would be more chance of spotting a Dodo bird than Cummins on a cricket field, the now 20-year-old is set to make his return to the domestic level when he turns out for the Perth Scorchers against the Adelaide Strikers on Thursday night. After playing briefly for Australia A on a tour of Africa in August last year before breaking down (again), Cummins has been nursed along this summer, only playing a couple of grade games in Perth where he did more damage with the bat than the ball. The big question is what he’ll hit on the speed gun after regularly topping 150 km/h in his previous life as a teenage tearaway.
A successful, injury-free return for Cummins isn’t the only thing at stake here; a win will almost certainly sew up a finals spot for the Scorchers and put them on track for another home final after hosting the last two Big Bash deciders. Adelaide, on the other hand, sits a 2-2 with one no result, and the Strikers probably need to win their last three games to make the top four. Adelaide hasn’t just lost its last two games, it has been belted; first it went down to the Sixers by six wickets, then the unstoppable Stars recorded an eight-wicket win in Melbourne.
Those two losses have come in the absence of skipper Johan Botha. The South African broke his thumb in the New Year’s Eve victory over Perth, but returns to the side at the expense of Bangladesh international Shakib Al Hasan, who proved to be a quality short-term replacement, despite the defeats in both of his appearances. In-form opener Michael Klinger will miss the game due to a hamstring injury talented young lefty Travis Head coming in to the team after some standout efforts in the Sheffield Shield this season. Tim Ludeman is a chance of moving to the top of the order after some quality efforts there in BBL02.
The loss of Klinger is crucial as he steered the Strikers to victory when the teams met two weeks ago. His 86 not out saw the home side reach Perth’s target of 160 with an over to spare. Nathan Coulter-Nile was the Scorchers’ best that night smashing 42 not out before picking up two wickets with the ball, but he won’t play this game due to international duties. Another Perth paceman, Yasir Arafat, has been in superb form since coming in to the Scorchers’ line-up in round two, and picked up four scalps against the Sydney Sixers in the stunning ‘Super Over’ win last start. He also nabbed the wickets of Steve Smith and Moises Henriques in the extra over, virtually guaranteeing his side victory before Adam Voges smashed the winning runs. The Scorchers are unbeaten at The Furnace so far this season.
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