Australia have focused on overrates in a desperate bid to avoid being deprived of qualification to the World Test Championship final for the second year in a row.
A win over South Africa at this week’s SCG would give Australia enough points to close out June’s decider spot, making Australia the first team to qualify. Test cricket’s perfect home summer also ensures Australia doesn’t travel to India, where results are required to secure eligibility.
Australia has made the test championship a top priority this summer, targeting it ahead of the first test against the West Indies in Perth in November.
But Australians know all too well how easy it is to lose a spot. Australia appeared to be on track for her 2021 final appearance, but a slow overage charge penalty at the MCG against India ultimately cost her the spot.
At the time, Australian athletes admitted they hadn’t thought about the issue properly before making the cycle’s championship more motivating.
“It was still a new concept, so even things like overrates were probably not talked about as heavily as we think they are now.
“Every point counts. It’s been a big driving force for us over the last few years. I think it’s really exciting to play the final against India in London, for example, in a neutral venue.”
Australia’s dedication to correcting the overrate was most evident on the final day of the series deciding match against South Africa at the MCG last week when Steve Smith bowled.
“It’s about a lot of communication with the referees. They always know where we are,” Cummins said. We saw Trav Head or Smithy and were basically back within a few overs.”
India sits second in the Test championship table, while Sri Lanka and South Africa are in serious competition with the other teams. If Australia fails to win in Sydney, then in India she needs to win at least one test or have the other result in her favour.
So the reason Australia treats the SCG Test as India’s perfect preparation is to consider playing two spinners on dry wickets which are expected to assist the turn and reverse swing.
Players and ground staff are hoping for a return to the old spinning SCG with Mitchell Stark and fellow Quick Cameron Green missing through injury.
The left-handed finger spinner has a strong chance of teaming up with Nathan Lyon, so the turning conditions could boost Ashton Agher’s hopes of taking one of those spots.
Agar has not played in a Test since September 2017, but likely played in Sri Lanka last year before suffering a side injury and is now back as Australia’s No. 2 spinner.
Working in his favor is the fact that Australia expects conditions similar to the only Sheffield Shield match played at the SCG this summer.
Whether Agar is one of the four or five front-line bowlers depends on whether Australia play three quicks or revive Matt Renshaw’s Test career and beat him in sixth. It’s decided. It is feared that he will return to India next month.
Nevertheless, Australia are looking forward to similar conditions at next month’s 4 Test Tour in India, where they have not won the series since 2004.
“It’s a big connection to India,” Cummins said of the SCG test, which starts Wednesday.
“Perhaps there will be more spinovers here, and batters will face more spins here. No. So it’s really good preparation.”
Cummins said he wouldn’t worry about taking part with the four bowlers, given that both Travis Head and Marnus Labchagne could provide assistance.
“In any case, we are confident,” he said. “It feels really fresh. I think he averaged mid 20 overs (each) in the tests, even though he’s only played three test matches.
“I’m just as fresh going into my fifth test match. I haven’t played Big Bash, so I’m going to take three weeks off after this.”
Australia were given a second-half scare on Tuesday when Steve Smith suffered a painful blow to the glove in the face of a slowdown at the SCG net, but he was able to resume batting. .