Curator Matt Page is confident of delivering an excellent wicket after a recent practice match at the famous stadium went well in a season when Melbourne’s lockdown meant no Sheffield Shield matches could be held.
Vice-captain Cummins said it was important not only for players but fans that the MCG continued to deliver in what is the showcase Test of the summer.
“I thought the Ashes Test and the Indian Test at the MCG a couple of years ago were pretty flat wickets. As a bowler, last year against New Zealand, it was a really good wicket, a bit of sideways movement and a bit of pace and bounce, so, hopefully, much the same,” he said.
“Not only as a player but as a fan, they are the best wickets – when it is good battle between bat and ball. You feel like if you do your skill well, you can have a big impact on the game.”
Cummins enjoyed the seam movement offered in Adelaide that helped him to 4-21 and Josh Hazlewood to the almost unfathomable figures of 5-8 on Saturday as the tourists fell for 36 in 21.2 overs – their lowest score ever and the equal-fifth lowest completed team score in 143 years of Test cricket.
Aside from Kohli’s dismissal, where he was lulled into a drive, this included having batting wall Cheteshwar Pujara and fellow roadblock Ajinkya Rahane each dismissed for a duck.
Pujara was stymied in the first innings, reaching only 43 off 160 deliveries, and his wicket will now arguably be the most prized, with Kohli no longer around.
“One of the biggest helpers was the wicket, it felt like there was a bit of sideways movement. We could just challenge his defence over and over again and having a bit of bounce in the wicket certainly helped,” Cummins said.
“I thought Lyno [Nathan Lyon] bowled beautifully to him in the first innings. But, for sure, we are really clear what we want to do to him. We saw we probably brought an extra man to the leg side as well to try and really attack his stumps. I thought he batted really well in the first innings. We bowled well enough for the scoreboard to not go anywhere. If he hasn’t gone on to that big score, you are right in the game.”
Cummins said the decision to retain opener Joe Burns was a “great call”, with the Queenslander delivering an unbeaten half-century in the second innings that is likely to help him retain his spot should the blow he took to his forearm not be an issue.
David Warner (groin) admits he has work to do to prove his fitness, while the status of Will Pucovski (concussion) will soon be clearer, meaning the makeshift opening combination of Burns and Wade may be retained.
The rebuild of this Test squad began during last year’s drawn Ashes tour when Steve Smith, Warner and the now largely forgotten Cameron Bancroft were back in the Test fold after their bans for the ball-tampering scandal. Cummins said a fresh bond was built at that time in a series that was full of drama, including a comeback Australian victory by 185 runs in the fourth Test in Manchester after the despair of Ben Stokes’ heroics at Leeds.
“I think we have a really special group here. I think the Ashes series a couple of years ago was the beginning and we have kept basically the same squad together,” Cummins said.
“Even the guys on the bench, people like Marcus Harris and Michael Neser, who didn’t play in this game, James Pattinson, they have basically been with us for all the Test matches or around the group quite a lot. We had a great summer last year – to start off this summer, is a continuation of that.
“I think we are atop of the world championship tables so a really good chance of making that Test championship final. For me, this is right up there with Manchester as our most satisfying win as a group.”
Jon Pierik is cricket writer for The Age. He also covers AFL and has won awards for his cricket and basketball writing.