Pat Cummins seeks perspective amid Leeds chaos

Pat Cummins grimaces after being pulled for six by Ben Stokes Getty Images

The last time an Australian Test tour took on the trajectory of the current Ashes series, starting with a victory before beginning to fall away, the response of a tiring and weakening team desperate for victory was to resort to the infamous, obvious cheating of Newlands.

With pressure compounding fatigue, a performance culture wearing away at weary minds and bodies, and anger at how circumstances and failings had conspired against them, that Australian team lost its way in the most awful and spectacular manner, while the rest of the world took the opportunity to raise a host of accumulated grievances.

Australia's current captain Tim Paine and vice-captain Pat Cummins were both part of that group, and in the deep anguish and frustration of Headingley, Ben Stokes' heroics and all, there was acknowledgement that this time around, a different and better path must be taken. And that, for all of the difficulties of the past 18 months, there are now far more members of the team able to step away from events in the middle and remind everyone that this is, after all, a game.

"Someone like Matt Wade, he's been out of the side for two years and one of the first things he said this morning [before the final day] was, 'if we win or if we lose, you turn up on the building site and no one knows'," Cummins said. "So I think it's a good reminder that it's not the be all and end all. One lesson we learnt from Lord's probably on that night where we were really close to ripping the game open, we got really emotional and almost just wanted it too much, so I was really proud how everyone stayed quite level this game.

"When we bowled them out for 67 or they got a partnership we were quite even. I think it's the sign of a pretty confident squad. Painey's been brilliant. He walked straight into the change room and said it's one-all, it's all good, two more matches to go. Bowlers, him as a captain, everyone makes decisions and you reflect after the game and think, what could I have done differently?

"When you look at it - a couple of catches, maybe a run out, but when a batsman comes out and scores a hundred like that, hitting sixes from an offspinner out of the rough so cleanly, you've just got to say well done. Someone's had a day out, we'll be right."

Marshalling the bowlers, Cummins agreed that there were a few moments to ponder. Not least some profligate bowling with the second new ball, having imposed enormous pressure on England for over after over leading up to it. "That was one thing we spoke about was with the new ball," he said. "Obviously you feel like you're more in the game with wickets but that wicket almost felt like a one-day wicket or an Indian wicket where with the new ball it's a double-edged sword.

"If you're not absolutely perfect you can go for runs and I think if we reflect on that half-an-hour, they might have got 30 or 40 runs pretty quickly. But other than that I thought we were brilliant. We'll have a look at that but the second new ball sometimes is a different ball game to the first new ball.

"I think the most pleasing thing for us, one, we bowled really well, but as you said I feel like we've got really good plans and processes to all of them. Ben Stokes obviously had a day out today and was probably playing more like one-day cricket towards the end there but we saw yesterday they batted for 70 overs and kept them to two runs an over and always felt like we were in the game. All three games we've been in a match-winning position so we know how to do 99 per cent of it. Hopefully we can get over the line in the next one."

The approach taken by Paine to spread the field for Stokes all the way through his match-winning 76-run stand with the last man Jack Leach (contribution: one run) has been a source of some consternation in the wake of defeat. Paine has admitted that he should at least have spoken more with the bowlers about maintaining attacking lines and lengths with that field, rather than taking it as a sign to effectively put the cue in the rack against Stokes and only try to dismiss Leach. Cummins admitted that such fields tended to put any bowler into white-ball mode.

"Unfortunately yeah it is [like one-day cricket]," he said. "When the wicket's like that and the ball's still hard, it didn't feel like it was going to swing or seam so as a bowler your options are you're hopefully going to still snick him off so you've got the slips out there but other than that just trying to limit the damage. He's faced almost 200 balls and when he started going he's at the top of his game so it's certainly hard work but we still had our chances. Obvious thing is the wicket got better and better the longer the game went on. I would have liked to score a few more runs myself."

Runs will more than likely be available from a welcome avenue at Old Trafford, via the return to fitness and selection of Steven Smith. Cummins said that Smith had remained very much involved in the game since he was ruled out through concussion, making his impending recall all the more welcome. "I know last week at Lord's he said he was screaming at the TV from his hotel room watching the final hour," Cummins said.

"This game we were right on top and we've got the world's best batter coming in for the next one so it's great. I think from all reports he's going to play the tour match next week. What has he got? 100-odd, 100-odd and 90-odd so it's going to be great to be back."

Cummins had one more crucial involvement, firing in the return to Nathan Lyon that, had he held it, would have seen Leach run out with Australia triumphant by a single run. Here, once again, was a reminder why the refreshed Australian approach, forged out of the infamy of Newlands, should serve the tourists well at the pointy end of this Ashes series. "I probably didn't help him out with the throw there, it could have been a bit better," Cummins said. "But yeah, like everyone, you just want to win so desperately and the emotion gets to everyone slightly differently.

"Gaz obviously wears his heart on his shoulder so we've got to get around him. But I think the next ball he bowled after that was three reds [for lbw] so on another day he's the match-winner. It's that fine line, if you lived and died by a win and a loss you'd be out of this business pretty quickly."