The Ashes 2013-14 December 23, 2013

Australia's attack 'best in the world' - McDermott


Craig McDermott reckons Australia's attack is the best in the world and Peter Siddle believes it is the strongest he has played in, but the tour of South Africa in February looms as their ultimate test. Against South Africa, Australia will not only have to bowl to the world's top two Test batsmen on the ICC rankings, AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla, they will also be judged against Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn, the No.1- and No.2-ranked bowlers.

Siddle, Ryan Harris, Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Lyon have delivered the Ashes after being supported by Australia's batsmen, which did not happen in England this year; the addition of Johnson to the side was also a major factor. The success was set up by outstanding bowling in the first three innings in Brisbane and Adelaide, where Australia prevented England reaching 200, and they have not conceded 400 in any of England's 16 Ashes innings this year.

Tackling the No.1 Test team in the world at home will be a wholly different challenge and, while nobody questions the dangers posed by Steyn and Philander, it is Australia's depth that McDermott believes gives his attack the edge. Morne Morkel is ranked No.11 in the world and Jacques Kallis comes in at No.29, but South Africa's spinner Imran Tahir does not offer the kind of control that Lyon does, and is ranked No.55.

Harris and Siddle are currently Nos. 5 and 6, Johnson No.15, Lyon No. 21 and Shane Watson No.38, but the Australians also have James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Jackson Bird, Pat Cummins and Ben Hilfenhaus all returning from injuries. South Africa's depth has hardly needed testing in the past few years, so fit and consistent have been Philander, Steyn and Morkel, but Kyle Abbott and Marchant de Lange are particularly promising backups.

"It's not just the bowling attack that's on the field, I think it's the backup we've got as well," McDermott, Australia's bowling coach, said in Melbourne on Monday. "That'll maybe be put to the test over the next couple of weeks. We'll see.

"I think we've got the best attack in the world. It's very well balanced, particularly with Nathan as our spinner - he's bowled well - and you've got Watto there as your fifth bowler. He's pretty handy as a fifth bowler. Nathan's done an unbelievable job for us this year. He's taken some very crucial wickets and very crucial times, particularly Alastair Cook twice with those cut shots where he's got a little bit of extra bounce."

Should any of Australia's fast bowlers struggle for fitness ahead of the Boxing Day Test, the selectors would look to Doug Bollinger and Nathan Coulter-Nile as the two standby fast men in the squad. Bird has made his return through the BBL, Pattinson and Hilfenhaus are expected to do the same, while Starc and Cummins have longer to wait until they regain full fitness.

One of the most pleasing aspects of Australia's attack this summer has been the ability of Harris, Siddle and Johnson to remain fit and in form for three consecutive Tests, with the strong possibility of a fourth being added to the list. Siddle, who will reach the milestone of 50 Test appearances on Boxing Day, said it was the strongest Test bowling attack during his time in the baggy green.

"We're in a good place at the moment," Siddle said. "We've been striving as a bowling unit for a long time to get that consistency right and to be able to complete innings together. That's what we've worked towards and this series has shown that. We've been able to bowl teams out quite quickly, give our batters a big chance and be able to put a lot of pressure on the opposition.

"Everyone from Mitchell to myself and Rhino and Lyno, we're all performing well and playing our role. We've always been about partnerships with bat or ball and I think with the ball at the moment this is probably the best line-up I've played in, where we've been able to stick it together and get everything right and win Test matches. At the moment this is definitely the best line-up that I've ever played in."

Asked if the Australians could lay claim to being the best attack in world cricket at the moment, Siddle stopped short of echoing McDermott's words.

"We're up there, aren't we?" he said. "We're winning Test matches, we're bowling teams out, but it's on the back of the batters. The batters have set a record of 500 for three consecutive Tests in a row for the opposition to chase. It does make it a lot easier for the bowling unit. The combination at the moment with batters and bowlers, we're just playing good positive cricket and being consistent at it."

That consistency in the field has helped restrict England's run-scoring opportunities, which in turn has frustrated their batsmen and contributed to wickets falling. At this stage, the collective economy rate of Australia's bowlers in this series is 2.83, their lowest in any Ashes series since 1994-95. Notably, that was McDermott's last Ashes series as a player.

"It's a known fact that you build enough maidens on an opposition, especially back to back to back, and you generate wickets," Siddle said.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Khair ul on December 26, 2013, 1:03 GMT

    A few performances on their home turf against a brittle English team and they suddenly become the best bowlers. Recall these same bowlers suffered badly against India not that long ago. They got beaten by South Africa as well two of whose bowlers are ranked number 1 and 2. And they haven't played Pakistan for a while have much idea what the Pakistan attack is like. Aussie cricket is being carried away with some good performances at home. An overseas tour may provide a good reality check.

  • David on December 25, 2013, 22:43 GMT

    Does anyone know exactly who the Aus attack are? They seem to pick a dozen or more bowlers a year. I think if you have a cricket ball, a run-up & a heartbeat you are automatically included in the Aus attack. Agar, Ahmed, Beer, Bird, Cummins, Coulter-Nile, Doherty, Faulkner, Harris, Hastings, Hazlewood, Henriques, Hilfenhaus, Johnson, Lyon, Maxwell, McKay, Pattinson, Siddle, Smith, Starc, Watson, and a few others I'm sure I've missed, all are/have been/may be/who knows part of Australia's "bowling attack."

    That is 22 players. Starc & Pattinson are veterans with 12 tests each! Harris an old timer with 19! Even the unfortunate Rob Quiney bowled his 25 overs, conceding just 29 runs. He also scored 9 runs, so that makes him an all-rounder in Aus, I guess?

    Did McDermott slip up? Maybe he did not mean to say Australia have the best attack but really meant to say the BIGGEST bowling attack in the world? Now THAT makes sense, doesn't it? It also fits right in with the team's ego sizes!

  • ESPN on December 25, 2013, 21:03 GMT

    How is it depth of bowling when Oz have 8 or 9 guys out injured? Bad player management, conditioning, fitness etc

  • David on December 25, 2013, 20:02 GMT

    @TheBigBoodha writes " I'm sorry to break it to some SA fans, but after seeing him in Australia, I can testify that (Philander's career record) is an absurdity."

    After reading hundreds of your posts, to believe anything to which you testify would be the greater absurdity. The single consistency of your posts here is the universal response by other posters: laughter & disbelief With all due respect, mate, you are simply not believable. The stats prove that.

    Look at the ICC rankings. Where are Siddle, Johnson, Harris? Way below Philander, whose bowling average OUTSIDE of SA is 21.83. This includes such seam friendly environments as the UAE, tracks prepared for SA in Aus, etc. Bowling averages of Aus' supposed "best attack in the world" are: Johnson 29.37. Siddle 26.68. Harris 22.45. Oops - Philander, OUTSIDE of SA, beats them all!! Again, as before, stats prove you WRONG, prove your opinions not believable.

    Aus' attack is NOT the world's best, unless you believe Santa is real too.

  • Dale on December 25, 2013, 10:23 GMT

    the problem with this comment is that SA have an attack that is so rarely injured we haven't actually seen much of the backup bowlers in international cricket. We saw a bit of Del Lange here in NZ and he looked quick, and I gather Abbot is getting a lot of wickets. But the Aussies have a whole heap of bowlers with a few tests under their belts at the moment. Personally I think the attacks are close --- it will be of a matter of look out world if SA ever do find a good spinner. Also agree entirely with the home conditions comments already made - all bowling attacks bowl well within their home conditions. Look even us Kiwi's who have a pretty good attack have been able to slaughter WI over a few tests in our home conditions. Which is why I was very impressed with India in the first test in SA - their quicks really stood up especially in the first innings. World's best attack needs to be judged by who can perform away from home --- and sorry Aussies you have a way to go there.

  • Srinivasan on December 25, 2013, 10:19 GMT

    'Best attack'? Give me a break! Take out Johnson's X factor, all you're left is mediocre Johnson, injury prone Harris, workhorse Siddle, Zooter Lyon. Hardly intimidating!

  • Kiran on December 25, 2013, 10:10 GMT

    @ Chris_P - That is exactly my point. To compare Johnson with Steyn you need to do lot of research like you did to come up with a series where Johnson was at his best and Steyn at his worst. Even in the series you mentioned, Steyn picked up 16 wickets compared to Johnson's 16. Simple fact of the matter is that Johnson was not even good enough to get into the squad in the Ashes in England this year. And now the aussies are trumpetting after 3 matches that he is deadly, excellent blah blah. First of all he needs to bowl decently a stretch of time to be even present in the squad on a consistent basis. Coming to depth, bowling quick is not the only criterion. Shaun Tait was also quick. We know what his stats are. Fitness and skill are the more important factors. How quick was Glenn Mcgrath? I really doubt if Cummins and Pattinson will be fit for any considerable amount of time. They havent played much and still they are always in the casualty ward. And what about spin? Lyon?? What a joke

  • Graham on December 25, 2013, 10:10 GMT

    Zak; I reckon the South Africa attack is probably best but cmon Kallis betterthan Harris anD Siddle, Dumony betterthan Lyon. You're dreaming. I'd have all of the Aussie quicks before Morkel who is also a very good bowler. I remember that South African attack going for over 600 runs in two of the three tests played over here last summer. In the 4 games against South Africa where Australia had there best attack at home and away, it was 1 all so the South African attack can't be streets ahead.

  • sam on December 25, 2013, 9:14 GMT

    May or may not be best attack but Aus have what other teams dont have and would love to- M Johnson .By far the fastest and most intimidating in the world.Only Steyn come close. Harris/Siddle are class too and far superior to Philander,as good as Morkel.

  • James on December 25, 2013, 8:03 GMT

    This is the same sort of arrogance that England had before this leg of the ashes.

  • No featured comments at the moment.