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Match Analysis

Rise of Cameron Green and the Australia pace cartel

Increase in Test-quality resources means Australia no longer so reliant on the "Big Three"

Alex Malcolm
Alex Malcolm
26-Dec-2021
Cameron Green's impressive time with the ball continued  •  Getty Images

Cameron Green's impressive time with the ball continued  •  Getty Images

Strength in depth. That is what Australia are building in their burgeoning fast bowling cartel as England discovered on Boxing Day.
Pat Cummins was hardly missed in Adelaide, but he took just five deliveries at the MCG to remind everyone why he's still the No. 1-ranked bowler in the world. He nicked off Haseeb Hameed with a superb delivery in the second over and later did the same to Zak Crawley and Dawid Malan to bag three wickets in the first session.
Josh Hazlewood, with 215 Test wickets at 25.63, has hardly played a part in the series since his brilliant seven-over burst on the opening morning at the Gabba that set the tone for what was to come. Hazlewood's only duty on Boxing Day was to present Australia's sixth-choice fast bowler, Scott Boland, with his brand-new Baggy Green cap. But he could well return from a side strain in Sydney or Hobart fresh as a daisy.
Mitchell Starc, who starred in Adelaide as the leader of the attack, was surplus to requirements in the opening session, bowling just four overs and going largely unnoticed. But he returned after lunch to claim the prized scalp of Joe Root for the second time in two innings just as the England skipper had reached his third half-century of the series. He would later dismiss Jonny Bairstow for the ninth time in Test cricket with a brutal short ball just as Bairstow had begun to look comfortable on his return.
Jhye Richardson, who took five in the fourth innings in Adelaide, and Michael Neser, who took important wickets in both innings of his debut Test, were both rested due to soreness despite both appearing to bowl well without discomfort at training on Christmas Eve. In their absence, Boland induced 13 false strokes from England batters in his first 60 balls in Test cricket, just one fewer than Cummins' 14, which produced three wickets - and the Victorian later returned to pick up his first Test scalp.
Australia's fifth bowler, Cameron Green, bowled one of the best spells of the day in the middle session. He delivered 24 balls of sustained high pace, almost all above 140kph/87mph, including a peach at 144kph/89mph that jagged past the outside edge of Ben Stokes and had wicketkeeper Alex Carey reaching above his head. Stokes faced 17 of the 24 balls and scored just one run before holing out to point trying to manufacture a scoring shot from thin air. Green was then given a rest, only for Cummins to replace him at the Members' End leaving England fans green with envy at such a luxury.
As inept as England have been in this Ashes series, bowled out for under 200 for the third time in five innings and a record 12th time in the calendar year, Australia's depth of quality in their fast-bowling ranks has reached new levels. Just 12 months after Cummins, Hazlewood, and Starc were bowled into the ground in all four Tests against India in a losing series, and only months after James Pattinson retired, Australia have used seven fast bowlers in five bowling innings in this series, combining for 38 of the 50 wickets taken at a cost of just 19.55 per scalp, and striking at 44.6 per dismissal.
The major bonus has been Green. The 22-year-old didn't take a wicket last summer, although he bowled better than his figures suggested.
He is now bowling match-changing spells. He has taken the key wickets of Root and Stokes twice each in this series. His MCG spell might have been his best yet. England were hardly well placed at 4 for 110 but Stokes was beginning to accelerate having started patiently. He flicked Starc off his pads for four and then launched Nathan Lyon over long-on for six to move to 22 from 35 balls and at least give Australia something to think about.
But Green tied him down with Australia's fastest spell of the day, and one of the most accurate. Australia's No. 6, who averages 52.84 with the bat in first-class cricket and has eight first-class centuries, tied England's great allrounder in knots with a spell as venomous as anything Starc or Cummins mustered. There was steep bounce, sharp seam movement, and unerring accuracy. Jos Buttler was almost Green's second victim, cut in half by a ball that jagged off the seam and bounced just inches over middle and off. Green spoke on Christmas Eve about trying to get comfortable at Test level and avoiding feeling overwhelmed as a kid in Test cricket. He's comfortable with the ball it seems. The next challenge is getting comfortable with the bat.
His bowling has given Cummins a comfortable introduction to Test captaincy. He doesn't need to overexert any of his quicks. Cummins bowled a six-over spell in the morning but no one bowled more than five-in-a-row thereafter and Green was able to be used in two four-over bursts.
It has also afforded Australia's selectors the opportunity to be cautious with any of their quicks if there is the mere hint of soreness, as they have done with Hazlewood, Richardson and Neser in Melbourne. They can even play horses for courses. Boland is an MCG specialist having taken 96 first-class wickets at 25.56 going into the Test, while Starc, Hazlewood, Richardson and Neser all average over 35 at the venue.
Richardson and Neser, who are more dangerous in the swinging and seaming conditions, can be held back for more appropriate deployment. Green's presence in the top six, provided his body holds up, could also give Australia the option to play two spinners if conditions suited.
Australia will face far more skilled and obdurate batting line-ups than the one England have sent on this tour. But their reliance on the big three of Cummins, Starc and Hazlewood seems a distant memory.

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo