MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Pat Cummins is in sight of a long-awaited second test after being rushed into the Australia squad to replace injured pace spearhead Mitchell Starc for the remainder of the series in India.
Cummins has not played a test since his stunning seven-wicket debut against South Africa as an 18-year-old in 2011 but he made a successful return to first class cricket for the first time in six years this week with a man-of-the-match performance for New South Wales in the domestic Sheffield Shield.
Jackson Bird is the back-up paceman in the touring squad, but 23-year-old Cummins is likely to be selected for the third test in Ranchi starting next week, with the tense four-match series poised at 1-1.
"In selecting Pat, we were looking for a strike bowling replacement option (for Starc)," selector Trevor Hohns said in a media release on Saturday.
"Pat has impressed in his return to cricket this summer with consistent performances in his ODI, Twenty20 International and Big Bash matches.
"He has also had a very good Sheffield Shield return for New South Wales."
Long touted as a future leader of the pace attack, the Sydney-born right-armer was the youngest Australian cricketer to earn a national contract in 2011-12 but has been beset by injuries since his brilliant test debut at the Wanderers.
Selectors have been loath to risk the tall seamer in long-form cricket, easing him back through the shorter formats until his return for New South Wales this week.
He underlined his huge potential with an eight-wicket haul to fire the state side to a comfortable home win over South Australia on Saturday.
His return to red-ball cricket was seen as confirmation of his availability for the Ashes series against England in the coming home summer.
However, Starc's series-ending stress fracture injury changed the landscape and Steve Smith's side is desperate to rebound in Ranchi after their fourth innings collapse in Bangalore squared the series.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford/Amlan Chakraborty)