Mitchell Starc, set to return to action after an injury-enforced break of almost four months, felt Australia’s pace attack could well expose England’s inexperienced top-order batting in the five-Test home Ashes series starting next month.
Starc, who has been out of action since Australia’s 40-run defeat (DLS method) against England on June 10 in the Champions Trophy because of a stress fracture in the right foot, will return to action for New South Wales in the JLT One-Day Cup match against South Australia on Friday (October 6) at Sydney’s Hurstville Oval.
If nothing changes between now and the start of the first Test, in Brisbane on November 23, Starc will share new-ball duties with Josh Hazlewood. After impressive displays from Pat Cummins and Nathan Coulter-Nile on unhelpful subcontinent pitches, and with Jackson Bird and James Pattinson also in the fray, Australia have plenty of fast-bowling options to choose from.
“We’ve got a really solid attack and we complement each other,” he was quoted as saying in the Sydney Daily Telegraph on Wednesday. “If it’s not me, you’ve got Pat Cummins who can bowl fast bouncers and Josh Hazlewood bowling consistent line and length.
“It’ll be much like that attack did when Johnno (Mitchell Johnson) took all those wickets, I think we complement each other really well. Throw in Jackson Bird, and Coulter-Nile is back bowling really well. So we’ve got five really good guys there and if Patto is fit to go, six.”
Given that Mark Stoneman, Dawid Malan, James Vince and Gary Ballance are yet to establish themselves in the England line-up, Starc felt that the Australian pacers could replicate Mitchell Johnson’s exploits the last time England toured Australia, in 2013-14. In that series, Johnson claimed 37 wickets in five Tests at an average of 13.97 as Australia went on to whitewash England 5-0 – a feat achieved only three times in Ashes history.
“I think there’s probably an opportunity with a few of their younger or less experienced guys to get on top of them, much like Mitch did to some of their batsmen through that series,” said Starc. “They’ve obviously got (Joe) Root and (Alastair) Cook up the top, who have played a lot of cricket and are probably their main guys with the bat.“The guys in the top order around them are pretty inexperienced and, hopefully, we can exploit that here in our home conditions.”
“The guys in the top order around them are pretty inexperienced and, hopefully, we can exploit that here in our home conditions.”
The left-arm paceman also suggested that there wouldn’t be any sledging directed at Root, and said that he would rather let the ball do all the talking. “It doesn’t seem to unsettle him with all that chat,” said Starc. “We’ll have to do all the uncomforting with the ball rather than getting in his mind with words.”
Ben Stokes, England’s star allrounder, has been suspended from international cricket until further notice following a brawl outside a nightclub in Bristol last week, and many people have suggested that England wouldn’t be a big enough force without him.
But Starc felt England were capable of posing a tough challenge even without Stokes. “He probably makes their team a bit more balanced, but he’s not the be-all and end-all of their team,” he said. “There’s plenty of other guys we need to worry about – some experienced bowlers, some experienced batsmen. You’ve got Moeen Ali coming in at eight, (Chris) Woakes probably coming in at nine. They are a very long batting line-up, so it’s not about one guy.”
Starc also stressed that Australia would pick Nathan Lyon in their XI, and not try fielding four fast bowlers. “I think you’ve got to pick him,” he insisted. “It’s just whether you can balance a team with four quicks around him. There will be a lot made about Brisbane and probably Perth as well with potentially playing four quicks but I think you’ve got to have him in your team.”
Lyon was the most successful bowler on Australia’s recent tour of Bangladesh, picking up 22 wickets in the two-Test series which ended in a 1-1 stalemate.