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