It was the fairytale comeback that papered over an odd declaration.
As headlines around the country marvelled at Usman Khawaja’s incredible twin centuries, Australia batted and kept on batting. But for what reason? Romanticism?
Even when Khawaja brought up three figures, Australia stayed out in the middle for another 2.4 overs.
Eventually, 388 runs ahead, Cummins signalled Khawaja to comeback.
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As some questioned whether he wanted to deny Jack Leach a hat-trick opportunity, Cummins did not even have his pads on when Alex Carey fell one ball after Cameron Green’s meaningful, though slow-ish, innings ended.
Had Australia been scared by their final day defeat at the Gabba almost 12 months ago? Perhaps. But India’s draw in the corresponding fixture last year was just as important, as the tourists denied Australia a victory at the SCG.
It meant the home side had to sprint through to get an 11th over at England on the fourth evening.
England went to stumps at 0-30.
They made steady inroads, but at no point did the tourists, who had not scored more than 300 in an innings once throughout the series, look like they would chase Australia’s total despite the flat deck.
Cummins took the new ball after tea and almost blew open England himself
He did so likely thinking it was now or never, with the decision to bat on lingering painfully in the back of his mind.
“I think he’ll be thinking about that declaration yesterday,” former Australian star Mark Waugh said, whose twin brother Steve famously declared when he was on 99.
“He’ll be thinking, ‘Hmm, I think I went a bit long, I better win this game for us now otherwise I’ll be looking back thinking why did I keep batting?’”
Waugh doubled down on his opinion later in the afternoon.
“I think they batted too long,” Waugh said. “They did not need to bat as long as they did.
“340 was plenty and if they wanted to get to 380-400 they should have got there quicker. There was rain forecast, there were a lot of things that said you don’t need to get to 400.”
In the end the two pros Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad, England’s new ball duo for the best of two decades held on for a gutsy draw.
Anderson smiled in delight, Cummins was as grim as the gloomy skies which opened moments after stumps was called.
Shane Warne said Cummins would likely have a sleepless night, but added Australia had opportunities to win the game and did not take them.
“First of all he’s going to learn a lot today,” Warne said in commentary for Fox Cricket. “He probably won’t sleep tonight, he’ll be thinking about all the things he could have done, all the options he had.
“Let’s not forget, there were seven overs of rain, a missed run out, dropped catches and if Australia had of held their catches and got the run out — Jonny Bairstow I think was first or second ball — and they got the seven overs of rain they might have actually been able to get it done a lot earlier in the day.
“Look, whenever it gets to nine wickets down everyone’s going to say you should have declared earlier. That’s always going to happen, that’s just the way it is, that’s just the way the game goes.”
Former England captain Michael Vaughan said Australia needed to catch better, having put down a couple of tough opportunities off Haseeb Hameed and Ben Stokes.
“I wouldn’t be beating myself up too much if I was Pat Cummins,” Vaughan said. “It’s been a great Test match.
“I’m sure he’ll have a moment or two thinking the tactical side, should I have declared a little bit sooner? But that’s the game.
“Ultimately if Australia had of caught better they would have won convincingly. They’ve dropped catches in the first innings, they’ve dropped catches in the second and therein lies the real reason why they didn’t win the game.”