CRICKET: It took Pat Cummins six years to play his second Test match, but on just five days rest he will be unleashed at high altitude to spearhead Australia's date with destiny in the Himalayas.
No one quite knows what the mystery of the mountains will hold, but there is intense speculation from both sides that the wicket to decide the Border Gavaskar Trophy could be tailor-made for Cummins' express pace.
The last time Cummins played a Test at this altitude he ripped through the thin Johannesburg air like a tracer bullet and tore South Africa to shreds on debut in a man-of-the-match performance in 2011.
India is set to add a third fast bowler Mohammed Shami to their squad to highlight the role pace could play in the fourth Test thriller, and however unlikely, there could be an outside possibility Jackson Bird may get a look in as a third pacer for Australia.
Test great Shane Warne has also tweeted his confidence that Dharamsala's elevated conditions could clinch history for Steve Smith's men.
"I really think the Aussies can now win this series as Dharamsala will suit their style," said Warne.
After conquering poor tracks in Pune and Bangalore and a dead deck in Ranchi, Australia are undaunted by what their journey to the foot of the Himalayas will bring.
Locals are expecting the Dharamasala wicket to stay low, but at 1457 metres above sea level, if there's one man who can generate altitude sickness, it's 150km/h runaway train Cummins.
"I think it gives the squad a massive amount of confidence, knowing we can go in and assess the pitch as quickly as we can and then play our game from there," Peter Handscomb said.
"Obviously we did that well in Pune and we've had two different types of wickets again in Bangalore and Ranchi.
"So if we can assess the conditions as quickly as possible and go from there I'm sure we'll be fine."
Cummins has never played back-to-back Test matches and when India kept Australia out in the field for two and a half agonising days there were mounting concerns about how the 23-year-old might cope with the workload spike with so little first-class preparation under his belt.
However, Australia's batsmen fought hard to give Cummins a day five to put his feet up and all things considered, the 39 overs he bowled in Ranchi - albeit in consecutive days - isn't drastically above what he would have churned through had he stayed for NSW's Sheffield Shield match at the WACA.
With Cummins in their XI, NSW would have been favourites to charge into the Shield final as well, so therefore the Cricket Australia sports scientists were preparing for this kind of workload - although admittedly not at Test level.
Cummins' pace didn't appear to drop at any stage during his Ranchi examination and although Australia's overworked bowlers won't do much before Saturday's Test start, all appear to have come through unscathed.
"As far as I know, everyone is going well," Handscomb said.
"Steve O'Keefe bowled a crazy amount of overs but he does that at training anyway so he's perfectly fine.
"All the boys are flying and we'll have a couple of days off and then a light training and then into the last Test.
"The fact they didn't have a second innings is probably a good thing for us and they could really relax on day five. It's a big thing.
"If you can get the bowlers a day off to put their feet up then they'll come out and win us games.
"It was great they had that rest and now coming into the final Test, they'll be ready and raring to go."
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