Mitchell Starc believes he can bowl far better than he showed in taking a hat-trick in each innings for New South Wales against Western Australia, and pointed to Josh Hazlewood's outstanding rhythm in the same match as the ideal counterpoint to the all-out pace he and Pat Cummins wish to deliver against England.
The hat-trick double was the first time the feat had ever been achieved in a first-class match in Australia, and the first time by anyone around the world since 1978. However, Starc, who has a handsome record of dismantling the opposition tail with swerving yorkers delivered from around the wicket, said he was mainly fortunate to be working in concert with the rest of the attack, and singled out Hazlewood for his six-wicket return to the game after a side strain.
"He was spot on, straight back into his Test form after one over of Shield cricket," Starc said in Brisbane. "Credit to him, he's a bloody genius of line and length, and it allows Pat and I who are more aggressive to come from the other end and really unleash and bowl as quick as we want and attack. He takes wickets his own way, line and length, and allows Pat and I to try to take wickets our way, attack the stumps and try and blast teams out and really intimidate. We complement each other really well and Jacko [Bird] is a bit like that role as well. We've got two of each and all have their different roles.
"I think I was just used at the right times [for the hat-tricks]. I cleaned up the tail against WA so I put a couple of balls in the right area but Josh blasted out the top order and Patty bowled well through the middle as well. So I think we bowled really well as a group against WA, Nathan Lyon as well on a small ground. Personally, I've enjoyed having that time to let the body heal properly, then find some real good rhythm and form in the Sheffield Shield. Hopefully, it just builds up to that first Test."
Hazlewood, Starc, Cummins and Bird all bowled in the nets at Allan Border Field on Monday as the Shield game between New South Wales and Queensland took place. In assessing Australia's likely approach for the Gabba Test, Starc emphasised the need to find the right length for the conditions, the better to challenge the outside edge of England's top order.
"For us it's just about getting our lengths right, it's a great ground for the Australian team in terms of our record and bowlers and batters in the Australian setup play the Gabba conditions really well," he said. "We haven't seen the deck yet and we'll assess that once the team come together and see the conditions.
"But it's a very good cricket wicket, bad bowling gets punished, patient batting is rewarded. We'll see what we've got but the bowling group have adjusted to different conditions around Australia quite well. There's been so much hype around it, the hype will get bigger and bigger as the week goes on and once the team gets announced and the squad come together on Saturday. Everyone will be raring to go and look to peak at training."
Reflecting on the history of Australia's likely pace bowling attack for the Gabba, Starc said there was an opportunity for the group to do something "special" together in much the same way as Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle combined in 2013-14. "We've all grown up and come through the ranks together, Birdy's obviously from NSW as well, playing for Tassie [Tasmania] at the moment, but we all know each other off the field as well and spend time around each other," he said. "It's no secret the fast bowlers are a tight unit. Hopefully, that holds us in good stead in this series.
"We're all still relatively young and got a few years ahead so hopefully we can play some really good cricket and do something special over the next few years.
"It's exciting for [Cummins] ahead of his first home Test match. He's in a great spot, been bowling really well the last six to 12 months, he's raring to go, he's up and about the young fella, keeping us older guys down to earth, but it's great to see him back, bowling fast and aggressive. Looking forward to seeing what he can do at the Gabba."