Mitchell Johnson might be the fourth-ranked ODI bowler in the world, but Australia have had no trouble covering for his absence in the first two games of the tri-series. Johnson has stayed home in Perth after missing the Sydney Test due to a minor hamstring injury, but his namesake and fellow left-armer Mitchell Starc has ensured Australia have not lacked anything without Johnson.
Against England in Sydney, Starc curled the ball back into the right-handers to pick up two wickets in the first over of the match, and against India in Melbourne, he again struck in the opening over of the game. Starc's work with the new white ball has been so impressive that it will be tempting for the Australians to stick with him as their opening bowler even when Johnson returns.
"We all know our roles really well and whenever Mitch is around you know he's going to be bowling fast and very aggressive," Starc said. "We're all trying to pick up the slack and when he does come back into the side it's going to be great as well. In the meantime it's nice to take wickets and try and bowl fast and do my role for the team."
It is as yet unclear when Johnson will return, with Australia's next match set for Friday against England in Hobart. For now, Starc is basking in his 6 for 43 against India after claiming 4 for 42 against England, and he has now collected more five-wicket hauls in ODIs for Australia (4) than anyone but Brett Lee (9) and Glenn McGrath (7), a remarkable effort considering he has played only 30 games.
He also finds himself currently holding the world record for the best strike-rate for any bowler with at least 50 ODI wickets, his 59 having come at the rate of a wicket every 24.2 deliveries. His record in one-day internationals is in contrast to his less consistent work in Tests, where he has failed to hold his place for two consecutive matches in a series since his debut series against New Zealand in 2011.
Four of Starc's wickets at the MCG came when he returned to bowl in the dying overs. His penultimate over was a wicket maiden and he followed that with another double-wicket over that cost only five runs, meaning his final two overs - the 45th and 49th of India's innings respectively - brought him figures of 4 for 5.
"It's something we all work really hard at," Starc said of bowling at the death. "For a number of games now it's something we really want to nail. It comes back to the training and we do a lot of it, the whole bowling group do a lot of it. It's great that we have so many options of guys who can bowl at the death. It's something I really enjoy.
"It's not always going to be that you come in and take the wickets, sometimes you're going to lose games. But I enjoy the challenge and there's something I work really hard at. I'm really confident with my white-ball game and you're going to find you're going to string a few games together where that execution is really good, which I think the bowling unit has found the last two games."
Starc said collecting wickets at important moments in India's innings was key to Australia's victory in Melbourne, where India's only partnership of more than 10 overs was the 126-run stand between Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina. India were unable to get a run of wickets in Australia's top order but fought back with some late strikes, before James Faulkner again finished the job with the bat.
"They played some good cricket tonight," Starc said. "With the ball, we took some key wickets at key moments in the game to really restrict them to under 300, which was a good effort from our bowling group. They pulled it back with the ball after we were 2 for 200 and they took some wickets and really got on top of us. It was a fantastic finish to the game and I'm glad we were on the good side of it."