Mitchell Starc may finally be about to become the dominant Test match bowler he has occasionally threatened to be, having passed 100 wickets amid the fine returns of 5 for 44 on the opening day against Sri Lanka in Galle. Having made his debut in December 2011, only five Tests after Nathan Lyon, Starc is more than halfway to the spinner's tally of wickets, having played fewer than half the number of matches.
For a long time Starc was a bowler who never played more than one Test in succession - following his first two appearances against New Zealand, he dropped out of the Test XI no fewer than 13 times for reasons of form, team balance, fitness or "informed player management". Now 26 and free of the ankle spurs that afflicted him for much of that time, Starc is now ready to turn the glimpses he showed in playing 11 consecutive Tests in 2015.
"Physically I think the six-month break I had with my foot and my ankle was really good for me to get some really good time in the gym and build up that strength that I lost probably through the Ashes series and the one-day series there," he said. "I've been really happy with where my body's at physically leading into the triangular series in the West Indies and this Test series.
"I'm starting to get that consistency back in Test cricket anyway. The first Test here definitely wasn't the best I've bowled, but started to get a bit of rhythm back through there, so I was pretty happy with how they came out today. Josh [Hazlewood] and I really enjoyed bowling with each other in partnerships. He hits a spot and is a genius at doing that, and allowing me to bowl as fast and aggressive as I can from the other end. We work really well together there, so it's nice to be back and hopefully be around for a lot longer than I have in the past."
The display at Galle may have started with the good fortune of a leg-stump half-volley flicked fortuitously to Joe Burns forward of square leg, but otherwise Starc posed a constant threat, offering bounce with the new ball and then sharp reverse swing with the old - movement that Hazlewood was able to extract as early as the 22nd over. He was able to prosper, too, without conjuring much in the way of conventional swing with the new ball: a method he has leaned on at times in the past.
"Sometimes it just doesn't swing as much for some guys," Starc said. "For me it didn't swing too much in the first Test but did enough to create a few chances. Today was finding a different way to take wickets and get the ball reversing. There'll be days where it swings a lot more and other days where it doesn't, but Joshy bowled pretty well with the swinging ball early and then with the reversing ball.
"Josh started getting a bit of reverse, so we talked about if we could hit that rough side a little bit more we might get more reverse and obviously it did. Josh bowled really well, I was lucky to get a bit of movement, and Mitchy Marsh bowled pretty well with the reversing ball as well, so I think we did that a lot better this game, and looked after the rough side of the ball better than the first Test."
One reason Starc was all to utilise reverse movement was the fact he now possesses greater control of an away swinger to the right hander from over the wicket. In times gone by, he has mainly concentrated on using it from around the wicket, angle in then swing away. However, his work with Allan Donald on this tour has featured more use of the angle from over the stumps, and both bowler and interim coach were very satisfied to see Kusal Mendis fall to one such delivery. After this series, David Saker will take over as Starc's mentor on a three-year deal, heralding a period of continuity that he hopes will be mirrored by his bowling and body.
"With AD I've been working pretty much on that delivery that got Mendis out with that reversing ball," Starc said. "Pretty pleased that's come off and something I've worked on with him since being in Colombo and obviously the last couple of weeks as well. AD's been great, we've all got a lot out of him so far and hopefully that continues for the rest of this Test and the third as well.
"I haven't worked with David before, I've heard good things about his time in England and speaking to a few of the Victorians on the triangular series tour I've only heard good things. So I'm excited to work with him later on, but at the moment it's working alongside Allan Donald to try to win this series. We've always got great guys around us, whether it be Craig McDermott, Allan Donald here or David Saker coming up. To have a guy locked in for the next three years, having that one guy there to work with us is really good for a young group."