SYDNEY (AP) — Injury-prone fast bowler Pat Cummins is set to play his first match in Australia's domestic first-class cricket competition in six years after being selected in the New South Wales squad to play South Australia this week.
The 23-year-old Cummins last played in the Sheffield Shield in 2011, the year he was voted player of the match in his one-and-only test when the then teenager took six second-innings wickets to propel Australia to a comeback win against South Africa in Cape Town.
Back injuries have kept him on the sidelines for long periods but, after a carefully managed rehabilitation program, he returned for Australia in the Twenty20 format last month following a successful stint in Australia's Big Bash league and after bowling in the domestic limited-overs tournament.
Australia's test squad is playing a four-match series in India, where Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood are leading the attack. The Australians are gradually rebuilding their pace stocks and Cummins is aiming to be one of the contenders for a fast bowling spot when the Ashes series starts at home against England in November.
"The Ashes is a goal for probably everyone playing Shield cricket this year at the moment," he said. "For me, getting back into first-class cricket was the No. 1 goal for the year and I'm absolutely pumped to be back.
"I think if I get through these games then hopefully next year I can start off the year just like any other cricketer."
Cummins said he felt a lot more consistent as a bowler than he was as a raw teenager when he played his only previous test.
"I think having a long pre-season, I was able to just work on quite a consistent rhythm and tempo rather than trying to bowl 180 kph every ball," he said. "Pace is one tool a bowler uses, but it's not the be-all and end-all."