Sri Lanka in Australia 2012-13 January 1, 2013

Australia's bowlers show batsmen how to step up


Should Australia's batsmen require some advice about stepping into the shoes of Michael Hussey and Ricky Ponting, they could do far worse than look across to the other side of the dressing room.

While Phillip Hughes has been up at night thinking about the idea of replacing the seemingly irreplaceable, the Test team's fast bowlers have learned how to step up when asked. If the rotation or management of fast bowlers has been the source of some consternation among some former players, portions of the public and shriller segments of the media, it has also added to the collective poise of the battery at Australia's disposal.

Instead of wondering aloud how they could possibly improve on the sort of high-quality bowling produced by the likes of James Pattinson, Ryan Harris, Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle at times over the past 18 months, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Johnson, and most recently Jackson Bird have stepped up to their tasks with increasing confidence. All the time they have been reassured to keep doing what put them in the team in the first place - the sort of simple advice the batsmen will need to hold close as they set about the task of covering for Hussey's loss after the SCG Test.

"We've gone through a lot of players and had a lot of success with it," Siddle said on New Year's Day. "I think we've shown in the past 18 months that when blokes go out whether it's injury or resting, the blokes that come in can perform and do well whether it's their first Test or 49th. Like Mitch [Johnson] last week, it doesn't matter if they come in, they're ready to go. And it's a strength.

"There are a lot of games of cricket and we've got a busy Test match period coming up, which is going to put a lot of pressure on all the bowlers. But I think by having that backing by the blokes on the side, the reserves, we can keep being competitive and very competitive, as we've shown."

At 24, Hughes has the experience of 19 Tests to call on, but remains an aspirant to the level of consistency shown by Hussey and captain Michael Clarke this summer. He admitted to thinking of how often the aforementioned duo had saved the blushes of other members of the top six across the Tests against South Africa and Sri Lanka, and has resolved to build his mastery of No. 3.

"I was actually thinking the other night the partnerships they've been getting through the summer, they've been unbelievable," Hughes said. "But in saying that, it's now all about us stepping up just a little bit more. I've been in and out of the team for a few years now and I suppose I've got a few caps behind me now so I'm a little bit experienced.

"I really want to make this three position my own. As I came in the team and got selected I really want to stamp my authority and I suppose be consistent over a number of years. I'd really love to hold that spot going forward and I suppose everyone has to step up now. [Ponting's] been unbelievably consistent now for years, so it's about us all being really consistent and going to the next level."

Next to Clarke and the seasoned reservist Johnson, Siddle's 36 Tests will make him Australia's third-most experienced Test player when Hussey's career concludes. While Siddle admitted to feeling a little "weird" about his advance in seniority, he also reasoned that he had spent enough time in and out of the team to learn what worked for him, allowing him to impart knowledge and advice to others.

"Looking back now, when I came in at 23, you do go about things differently," Siddle said. "You think it's pretty cruisey and you're happy with we're you're at, but it does hit you a few times when you get dropped or you're told some home truths about how you're really going or really looking. It has only been the last few years I've started to concentrate a lot more and work a lot harder.

"Last year I benefited from all that work I put in and actually concentrating a bit harder on what I had to do to be a professional cricketer and play at the highest level. Sometimes those little hiccups along the way sometimes do help if you take it the right way and go about changing those things.

"I just want to see the young boys do as well as they can when they first come in and keep doing as well as they can. I want them to learn from my mistakes of being a bit lazy when I first came in and taking it easy. You want them to go as hard as they can and keep doing that - if I can keep doing that, whether that's at training or out on the field, hopefully they can follow."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andrew on January 3, 2013, 3:02 GMT

    @Chris_P -curious as to why you don't rate Cutting?

  • Sachin on January 2, 2013, 16:34 GMT

    Ryan Harris, Ben Hilfenhaus, Peter Siddle, Mitch Johnson, Mitch Starch, James Pattinson, Pat Cummins, Jackson Bird, Hazelwood, Cutting, C-Nile, this is the Fast bowling XI of Australia.

  • Dummy4 on January 2, 2013, 12:12 GMT

    @landl47, I agree with the comments regarding the bowling stocks being in pairs, seems we've got a number of options available to suit each course. I probably wouldn't have starc and johnson in the same team, same with bird and hilfenhaus, although siddle and pattinson can be great together. I actually think Johnson and Starc should be rotated from game to game, it'll help keep starc from injury until he matures a bit more, and it will keep Johnson keen. Hard to drop either of them if they turn in a match winning performance though...

  • Peter on January 2, 2013, 7:12 GMT

    @landl47. Understand what you are saying but I ask you to look at his figures this season. Finally, after showing so much promise he is delivering on that talent. I have been watching him for nearly 8 years & have cringed by his failure to deliver on his undoubted talents. He isn't quite ready yet, he needs to keep going, a season in county and he'll be the real deal. An excellent fielder to boot. His batting, believe me is all class, much, much better, technically than his bowling. Agree with McDonald, his bowling, while steady, would hardly be enough to rip through teams. Henriques has done that where the conditions helped (overcast, English like conditions at the Gabba believe it or not). To save you time, his fc record for this season is 320 runs @ 64 with 13 wickets @20.15 ave. Not too shabby I would suggest.

  • John on January 2, 2013, 5:13 GMT

    @Chris_P: I haven't seen a lot of Henriques, just a couple of T20s, but is he really a good enough batsman to be a #6? A first-class average of under 30 with just one century (and his List A figures are worse) doesn't sound like a test class batsman. The problem with most of Australia's allrounders- Butterworth, Faulkner, Cutting, Henriques, Mitch Marsh- is that they are bowling allrounders, whereas Australia's need is for a batting allrounder. To me, the best allrounder in Aus cricket at the moment (assuming Watson is a batsman only from now on) is Andrew MacDonald, with a FC average of almost 40 and a bowling average of 28. I'm still not convinced he's good enough at either discipline to be a test player, but if an allrounder is picked I think it should be him. I'd still go with the best 6 batsmen and the best 4 bowlers as a policy and only pick an allrounder who qualifies in one of those categories.

  • Nik on January 2, 2013, 4:20 GMT

    Forget about India - they are at an all time low and a Victorian 2nd XI would beat them at the moment. Focus on the ashes. The batting looks very fragile. Can't see the Aussie batsmen having an easy time (like they did for SL and IND). Expect more of the intercity of SA in Perth. How the batsmen fair against the English bowlers will determine who takes the urn.

  • Peter on January 2, 2013, 3:43 GMT

    @landl47 I agree Cummins won't be a factor until our next home season. I have a lot of time for Hilfy & thought he would go well in England, but the one day length he has dropped into won't go away & that worries me. Understand Harris is 33, but he will always only be used as a backup if one of the spearheads is out. I am with you on Cutting, but the selectors have shown their hand with him as well. But in Siddle, Pattinson, Starc, Bird, with Hazelwood int he wings, it does look rosy. And if Henriques keeps his form up, he should be ready to slot into the #6 allrounder role perfectly. A full season in county would round out his experience.

  • Guy on January 2, 2013, 2:32 GMT

    @Chris_P and @landl47 both make good points about the pace line-up for England. I'm with Chris_P in that I think Hilf's recent form has almost ruled him out for the Ashes - Bird has clearly leapt ahead. Although I wish things were different, I agree with @landl47 that Cummins won't make it to England, but I think Harris is a good chance - surely there's a place for him in a six or seven man pace battery? My six: Pattinson, Siddle, Harris, Starc, Johnson, Bird.

  • John on January 2, 2013, 0:48 GMT

    @Chris_P: I think, if he can get past his physical problems and is managed properly, Cummins is a great prospect. I just don't think there's any chance of him being ready for the Ashes series in England. I'm not so sure you're right about Hilf. He was the best Aus bowler in the 2009 series and he is well-suited to English conditions. I'd have him in my squad. I don't think Cutting is test material unless the selectors are determined to pick someone as an allrounder even if he doesn't do either well enough to be considered as a specialist. Hazlewood is very much on the radar and in a year or two I think he'll be right up there. He needs more experience and again, fitness.

    @Jono Makim and Beertje: Though Ryan Harris is an excellent bowler when he is fit, he just can't stay fit. At 33 , he's at the end of his career. I can't see taking him to England.