The Investec Ashes 2013 August 18, 2013

Starc vying for chance to cement place


Mitchell Starc is due to play in the final Ashes Test at The Oval. That is based not on confirmation from the selectors, just the prevailing trend. Since the start of the tour of India earlier this year, Starc has alternated: in for Chennai, out for Hyderabad, in for Mohali, out for Delhi, in for Trent Bridge, out for Lord's, in for Old Trafford, out for Durham. In for The Oval just makes sense.

In fact, stretch it back even further and the only time Starc has ever played two consecutive Tests in a series was during the first two Tests of his career against New Zealand in late 2011. Starc has done some fine things during his 11 Test appearances, with both bat and ball, and his use of reverse swing has been one of his strongest weapons.

That was also what cost him his place for the fourth Test, as the selectors felt Chester-le-Street would be more suited to seam rather than swing. Starc has at times struggled to find the right lines during this series in his search for movement in the air, mixing up his threatening deliveries with sprays down leg or wide of off, and while he knows he needs greater consistency, it is hard to achieve in such circumstances.

"It would be nice to get a few games back-to-back and get that rhythm," Starc said after Australia's tour match in Northampton against the England Lions. "To have a chance at that consistency that everyone talks about [would be good] - 'you've got to be more consistent,' - well it's a bit hard when you play one game and you're dropped."

If Starc's words seemed like a back-hander to the selectors, they were spoken genially enough, with a smile, and were more or less a statement of fact. It is hard to become more consistent when you're in and out. Hard, but not impossible. Ryan Harris has shown that during his career, which has involved a similar mix of moving in and out of the side, often due to fitness concerns. Harris especially, has shown the value of consistently making batsmen play during this series.

"For me it's making the most of that new ball," Starc said. "I'm pretty happy with where my reverse swing bowling is and how much I am getting the ball to swing but I guess [my goal is] doing more damage with the new ball and being more consistent when the ball isn't doing anything at all. I know where I need to get better and it's just a matter of doing it."

Another likely dry pitch at The Oval could help Starc's chances of being recalled for his third Test of the series, especially given that the selectors may be reluctant to risk the injury-prone Harris now that the series is decided. Starc bowled reasonably enough against the England Lions, although he only finished with one wicket- Moeen Ali caught at second slip.

"I was very happy with how it came out," Starc said. "What we've spoken about over the last few weeks about where we want to bowl and plans and that sort of thing, [I was] happy with how we practiced those with James [Faulkner] and I especially."

The presence of Starc and Faulkner as the only two fast bowlers in the Northampton match meant that David Warner was called on for some sub-military medium pace as first change, but the wicketkeeper Matthew Wade was not required with his skiddy seamers. Had Wade been asked to bowl it would have created an interesting question over who would take the gloves, and Starc, a wicketkeeper during his teenage years, would have been one possibility.

"Yeah, I was happy to take the gloves if he was given a bowl," Starc said.

He can't get a consistent run in the team as a bowler and prolific lower-order batsman, so why not add another string to his bow?

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Aaron on August 19, 2013, 13:45 GMT

    Starc should be considered nothing more than a short form specialist until his FC average is under 30. All this crap about having an x-factor or bringing variety to the attack is meaningless. He can consistently get picked when he can consistently bowl at a level that can be considered test standard, instead of the odd venomous spell surrounded by inconsistent crap.

  • Scott on August 19, 2013, 12:47 GMT

    @Mitty2, you seriously have got odd ideas on players within the Aus team. For starters, Starc didn't bowl all that well in the first test, but was so much better than Pattinson, yet Starc was dropped. In this last test Bird bowled one decent spell and the rest of his bowling was ordinary. In fact, his spell with a brand new ball at Eng's #11 Anderson new to the crease was the worst of any bowler in this whole series. He got panned for 20 off 2 overs, and rightly so as it was complete junk. Nonetheless, I like Bird and think he could be a v good bowler. But Starc's whole test career has been one game on, one game off. It's no wonder he doesn't ever find any rhythm. We've all seen how devastating he can be when he gets it right as well, so he's worth a chance. Next you'll be telling me we should have Faulkner in his place because of FC stats......

  • hari on August 19, 2013, 10:42 GMT

    Starc is young, so has many years of cricket left in him. But that does not mean you drop him every alternate test and shatter his confidence. One of the reasons why he was dropped in Durham was that the foot marks he creates will assist Swann. The same thing was quoted as the reason in India as India had Ashwin. I think it is criminal to drop a bowler for the inabilities of your batters. Starc is a great prospect and after he made some adjustments after being advised by Akram, has been very effective. His height, pace and swing has troubled every batman. He has picked important wkts and has controlled run flow too. Yes, he strays a bit. But tell me which pacer does not? Everyone cannot be a McGrath. Starc is a huge asset who should be nurtured by giving as many chances as possible. His batting and attitude are huge bonus for the beleaguered Aussie team. If Starc was in any team other than Aus, he would hae never been dropped. Let good sence prevail and Starc be selected every match.

  • Murray on August 19, 2013, 4:41 GMT

    in 1953 Alan Davidson debuted. He became a match winning bowler in 1959. He could bat bit too. Alan Davidson was not taken on the next overseas tour for Australia. He only played a minor role in the ashes in 1953 and 1954/5. He was a "developing left arm swing bowler" we've had a few since - Dymock and Reid worthy of mention. AK was 24 when he debuted in England - he turned out alright ? Let's give them a carefully planned and restricted shot just like we used to back in the dark days of being unprofessional.

  • John on August 19, 2013, 4:22 GMT

    Starc's young and a big unit. He needs to find rhythm to be effective and it's hard to see how he can do that playing every other game. However, when he gets it right he's very hard to play.

    I'd persevere with him; I think he's much more likely to get good batsmen out than Bird, who's accurate but not much else.

  • Chris on August 19, 2013, 2:18 GMT

    I find it curious all this talk of Bird containing runs compared to Starc. Bird's economy rate in all matches on the tour of England so far has been slightly worse than Starc's. In the last test he moved about 2 balls off the straight all match, which is hardly surprising since he bowls with such a scrambled seam. Decent first class bowler, but not test class.

    Starc needs to work out how to get to full pace more regularly. Only seen him in the mid-to-high 80's in England. He can get well into the 90s, and when he does that he seems to become a lot more threatening. And like a lot of fast bowlers, the extra pace isn't generally at the expense of accuracy, because it all comes from better rhythm, which often means better accuracy and movement. Just more lethal all over.

  • Steve on August 18, 2013, 13:52 GMT

    Starc is a strike bowler, not an all-rounder, so comparisons with such as Watson & Bird are inappropriate, because he isn't the same sort of bowler.

    Starc is still a work-in-progress, but note that at Riverside, Bird managed 2 wickets & went for 2.94 an over, never looking like troubling Bell & co in the 2nd innings whatsoever. Bresnan took him to the cleaners & put that target into the over-250 mark, as well.

    Starc, in 2 Tests, has taken 8 & has gone for, 2.78 an over. So, not exactly Mr expensive, is he?

    If Aus wants to build a side, or compete that bit better at home this winter, they need Starc playing regularly, amongst a few other things. I'd suggest 3 strike bowlers & Lyon as the end-stopper at The Oval for starters.

  • Dummy4 on August 18, 2013, 13:50 GMT

    @xtrafalgarx, you, my good sir, are spot on!

    @Mitty2, go check out McGraths stats after the same number of games and then come back and tell me how poor Starc is. The guy came into test cricket with no more than a handful of FC games under his belt, give the bloke a chance to learn a little, the fact is he is tall, strong, fast and a bloody handy bat too. Give him a couple more years and see what becomes of him, its not like we are winning when he doesn't play! 8 wickets in his two games here at less than 30 is far from a disgrace!

  • Dummy4 on August 18, 2013, 13:34 GMT

    Continued. Just checked Hilfenhaus last few games on his profile and he's taken quite a few braces of three-and-four-fors in first-class. Still has very good economy rates and averages in the longer formats. Get him in for some control and swing. Jackson Bird has a very impressive firs-class record but I was disappointed with him at Chester-le-Street.

  • Dummy4 on August 18, 2013, 13:32 GMT

    I am from the UK and I believe Ben Hilfenhaus was a better bowler than Starc. The Hilf was not as good with the bat but he wasn't a rabbit either.

    My questions to Australia would be whether Hilfenhaus has enough decent recent form to justify a look-in to the Test side soon (I have no idea what he's been up to). Also, Hilfenhaus, particularly against England 2009 and India two years later, was more consistently probing and accurate with the swinging ball than Starc, who is threatening but quite spray-gun (a la Steve Finn only not quite as prolific a wicket-taker). Hilfenahus has a good Test record and to my knowledge the only poor series he has had was that Ashes series in 2010-11, although he certainly wasn't the only Aussie to struggle then. Even Siddle had a hard time then.

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