Cummins laments missed opportunities’ as Australia settles for a 2-2 result.

A year before the Headingley rescue mission, Woakes felt he would never play again.

But the skipper insists his team can be proud of retaining the Ashes.


Cummins laments missed opportunities' as Australia settles for a 2-2 result.
Pat Cummins oversaw Australia’s retention of the urn despite defeat at The Oval

Pat Cummins lamented “missed opportunities” as Australia was forced to settle for a 2-2 draw in the Ashes series,

Pat Cummins lamented “missed opportunities” as Australia was forced to settle for a 2-2 draw in the Ashes series, but claimed the team could be happy with preserving the urn.

With David Warner and Usman Khawaja resuming on 135 without loss, Australia began the final day at The Oval with aspirations of chasing down 384, which would have been their second-highest successful chase in Test cricket.

They were quickly removed by Chris Woakes, who found help with the ball that had been changed late the previous evening, and the innings appeared to be slipping away when Marnus Labuschagne edged Mark Wood to second slip. However, Steven Smith and Travis Head put up a 95-run stand before crumbling against Woakes and Moeen Ali after a two-hour rain delay.

When Alex Carey edged Stuart Broad’s final Test ball, the Australians lost a defining series victory for the second time in four years. It came from a position where they were 2-0 ahead and well situated on the second day at Headingley.

“Felt like we got ourselves into some really good positions, first of all winning the first two games, but then Headingley and again this week—match-winning positions that we didn’t quite capitalize on,” Cummins remarked. “It happens. In Birmingham, we were on fire and found a way to win. We’ll be delighted that we were able to retain [the Ashes]. It’s been a fantastic tour, but we all came here today hoping to get up and win 3-1.

“Coming here and retaining the Ashes feels like a bit of a letdown.” However, we were all fairly pleased to keep the Ashes in 2019. Don’t think for a moment that we should lose sight of it. It’s a great accomplishment for us to come over here and win and put ourselves in so many winning positions.”

While much has been made of England’s aggressive batting line-up, which peaked with a commanding 592 at Old Trafford, it was with the bat that the visitors let things slip from their grasp, only scraping past 300 in one of their last three matches, while Smith and Labuschagne falling to Moeen in the second innings at Headingley was another pivotal lapse.

“I think there’s a couple of key batting partnerships that felt like if we’d just put on another 50 runs, it could have really turned the tide in our favor,” Cummins said. “There’s no doubt that the one big innings they put on [at Old Trafford] made you wonder if we could do some things differently, but you never know if that will change anything.” There are far too many unknowns.”

Another pivotal milestone in the series was Nathan Lyon’s injury at Lord’s, where he sustained a tour-ending calf strain in his 100th consecutive Test. Although Australia was able to overcome his absence in the rest of that game to go 2-0 up—a performance that ultimately proved important in retaining the Ashes—the gap he left became more apparent over the next three games.

Cummins laments missed opportunities' as Australia settles for a 2-2 result.
Nathan Lyon was injured at Lord’s and played no further part in the series

Todd Murphy had a limited role at Headingley, was then overlooked for Old Trafford, but underlined his worth with six wickets at The Oval. Cummins seems to imply that Australia made a mistake by not playing a frontline spinner in Manchester for the first match in 11 years.

 “It’s pretty clear just how important Nath is in all conditions,” he explained. “And I think we felt that in Manchester, not having a spinner out there just for that change of pace, someone you feel can control the pace of the game when the wicket’s quite flat and pace bowlers potentially can’t,”

“Based on this week, Todd performed an excellent job. In the second innings, he grabbed four wickets, but he always felt like he was asking questions and could get breakthroughs when the surface didn’t have much to offer. Todd has truly impressed me. Hopefully, Nath has lots of cricket left in him, but Todd is also ready to play, which is fantastic.”

Australia, like all other nations, is now on an extended break from Test cricket before their home summer resumes against Pakistan in mid-December. Though the Ashes heralded the start of a new World Test Championship cycle, they also represented the end of an intense phase in the format that included some historic difficulties.

At the outset of the year, they faced the chance of winning in India, capturing the World Test Championship, and securing the Ashes in England. In the end, one of those was accomplished outright when they defeated India at The Oval in early June, and while the urn remains theirs, it was neither compelling nor definitive.

“We just fell short of our goals for coming here, but winning the World Test Championship and retaining the Ashes is a pretty successful tour,” Cummins added.


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