In his first series as captain, the Australian men's cricket team annihilated England 4-0 to retain the Ashes. Cummins then led the men from Down Under to a historic 1-0 win in Pakistan. It was Australia’s first Test series victory in Asia after an 11-year drought. The 29-year-old is yet to taste a defeat in the seven Tests he has captained the side so far.
Pat Cummins seems to be relishing the top responsibility. His numbers as a bowler have been phenomenal after donning the mantle of a skipper. Cummins has taken 33 wickets in seven Tests at an average of 19.66.
No other bowler has claimed as many wickets during his period. The lanky pacer was also the highest wicket-taker in the above-mentioned two series (21 wickets at 18.05 at the Ashes and 12 scalps at 22.50 in Pakistan).
As a two-Test series between Sri Lanka and Australia is set to get underway on June 29 at Galle, Cummins now has the opportunity of leading his team to consecutive series victories in Asia – a rare feat achieved by an Australian side only twice in the annals of cricket.
It was in 1959-60 that the Richie Benaud-led Australia defeated Pakistan and India to register back-to-back series wins on the subcontinent for the first time. More than four decades later, the all-conquering Australian team captained by Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist went on to clinch four straight series in Asia between 2002 and 2006. During this phase, Australia thumped Pakistan 3-0, downed India 2-1, routed Sri Lanka 3-0 and trounced Bangladesh 2-0 to underline their dominance of world cricket back then.
TASK CUT OUT
Despite their success in Pakistan, Cummins and Co have their task cut out against Sri Lanka. Their series victory in Pakistan transpired on batting-friendly pitches which assisted reverse swing with the older ball. In Sri Lanka, though, the condition is going to be completely different with the visitors likely to face a spin test from Day One.
It is not a secret that spin has been Australian batters’ Achilles’ heel over the years. When the two teams last locked horns in a Test series in Sri Lanka in 2016, the hosts had blanked the touring side 3-0 with wily left-arm tweaker Rangana Herath claiming 28 wickets in three matches at 12.75.
Even during their ongoing tour of the island nation, the Australian men's cricket team won the three-match T20I series 2-1 but suffered a 3-2 defeat in the five-match ODI series against an inexperienced side on turning pitches. The hosts are expected to prepare similar tracks that allowed their spin-heavy attack to dominate in the ODIs.
For all their spin woes, Australia can take confidence from the fact that Sri Lanka is the only Asian country where they have secured multiple Test series wins in the 21st century. Since 2000, the Australian men's cricket team has played three series in Sri Lanka and emerged triumphant in two of them (3-0 in 2003-04, 1-0 in 2011). Their overall record in Sri Lanka reads: six wins, four losses and six draws in 16 Tests.
The 2003-04 tour was especially memorable for Australia as they conceded a first innings lead in each of the three Tests but went on to win all the games eventually. Spin legend Shane Warne, who passed away on March 4 following a heart attack in Thailand earlier this year, was the chief architect of Australia’s series victory, scalping 26 wickets in three matches at 20.04.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand, will be buoyed by the result of their last meeting in 2016. They are also coming on the back of an away Test series win in Bangladesh and will look to cheer up the cricket-loving islanders with their performance at a time when the country is going through its worst-ever economic crisis.