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Cummins backs ‘good signs’ from Warner as Australia look to avoid Ashes decider

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Pat Cummins expects David Warner to retain his place at the top of the order at Old Trafford as Australia look for the victory that will secure the Ashes and avoid the series from going to a decider.

Warner’s position has come under scrutiny after his double failure against Stuart Broad at Headingley – making it 17 times he has fallen to Broad – with Australia needing to work out if there is a way of getting Cameron Green back into the XI.

Since 2021, Warner has averaged 28.17 in 23 Tests, and that includes his double hundred against South Africa during the Boxing Day Test at the MCG last year. In a clear sign that he remained in Australia’s plans, he was part of the slip cordon during practice on Monday and Cummins, although saying the selectors had not yet met, endorsed Warner’s contributions in the series where he has put on opening stands of 61, 73 and 63 with Usman Khawaja.

“We’ll chat about it, but I imagine it will stay the same,” Cummins said of the opening pairing. “I think [Warner] has been going really well. I thought at Lord’s, he was really impressive. Last week, like many of us, he probably didn’t contribute as much as he would have liked with the bat.

“He’s been out there over the last couple of days putting in a lot of work, but I think this tour he has shown a lot of good signs and hasn’t quite kicked on to make that big score. Some of those innings he’s played under really tough circumstances has made it easy for [Steven] Smith to come in and score runs, or the like.”

If, as expected, Warner is retained, the only other way for Green to return would appear to be in place of Todd Murphy leaving Australia with an all-pace attack supplemented by Travis Head, who did have an extensive bowl in the nets on Monday. Murphy was lightly used at Headingley and Cummins appeared to hedge his bets slightly on what the decision could be.

One byproduct of the aggressive way England play is that their innings last fewer overs (they have batted more than 80 just once so far in the series, and that was by nine balls in the second innings at Lord’s) so there is less opportunity for a spinner to make an impact, particularly if conditions favour the quicks, although there’s no doubt that if Nathan Lyon was fit, he would be locked in the side.

“Every situation is different,” Cummins said. “We’ve played games with one quick; we’ve played some games with heaps of quicks. It’s all really conditions based. As I said last week about Toddy, I would have loved to bowl him a bit more but there wasn’t a heap of overs in the game, the ball seemed to swing and seam a little bit, so that’s certainly something to weigh up this week.”

Selection issues aside, Australia are entering a two-week period that will define how this tour – and this team – are remembered. If they can win at Old Trafford, the job will be complete before The Oval with a first series win in England since 2001. Fail from 2-0 up and the missed opportunity of 2019 will pale by comparison.

So much of Australia’s planning for this tour has been based around them still being able to peak towards the end of the trip if needed, which is how things are playing out after they slipped up at Headingley.

The squad only came back together in Manchester on Sunday as most players took the best part of a week off. Some have questioned if that has been the best use of time with the series on a knife-edge, but Cummins has experience of the 2019 tour, which did include a couple of tour matches, and while the team was able to win at Old Trafford, they ran out of steam at The Oval although for some the trip had also involved the ODI World Cup beforehand.

“I didn’t play a tour match so I was able to grab those windows, but for a lot of the guys after the Test finished they were off to play a tour match somewhere,” he said. “You’ll hear us talking about trying to give players breaks as much as we can because on a 60-day tour playing 30 days of cricket, it’s already pretty busy.

“That’s part of the thinking how we set up this tour around our prep, and even for a few of us missing IPLs or having shortened IPLs so that when we get to this stage we feel in as good a position as we can.

“When you look back to a few of the recent tours we’ve had in Pakistan or India, we played some of our best cricket at the end of the tour. Hopefully this one’s the same, even getting more and more used to the conditions. And fortunately, other than Nath [Lyon], we haven’t any injury troubles so it feels like it’s set up quite nicely.”

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