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AUSTRALIA V NEW ZEALAND TESTS

Much needed rest Starc's silver lining

30 November 2015
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Former Australia speedster says day-night Test is an overwhelming success and looks ahead to the first Test against the West Indies in Hobart

About the Writer:
 @r_harris413

Ryan Harris is one of Australian cricket's most beloved players and the man skipper Michael Clarke says is "the first player selected in the Australian team".

My first observation about day-night Test cricket using a pink ball was how nice it would have been to play on an Adelaide Oval pitch, which I came to know as being pretty flat, with a healthy cover of grass that helped the ball to nip around.

And my final assessment is, like so many others, that the first day-night Test match was just a magnificent event with the combination of the spectacle, the atmosphere of big crowds and some really competitive cricket.

Of course, Adelaide Oval is such a great venue at any time so it makes for a pretty handy starting point, but to have more than 120,000 people attend the match over three days is just outstanding. 

WATCH: Damien Fleming is joined by Australia captain Steve Smith and coach Darren Lehmann to review the third Test on Stumps

I watched the first day from the grandstand, saw a lot of the second on television when I was catching up with friends in the members’ area and then arrived near the end of the game and popped into the dressing rooms to see the boys celebrating, and there was a common theme among many people I spoke with.

That it was great to witness a genuine contest between bowlers and batters, especially after the way the bat had dominated at the Gabba where there was a bit in the pitch early on before it flattened out, and in Perth where it was just flat from ball one.

Even in the 40th over in Adelaide, the ball was swinging around a bit and was nipping off the pitch for pretty much all of an innings.

So from my perspective as a former member of the fast bowlers’ cartel, it’s about time that the game swung back a bit in favour of us bowlers a bit.

The Aussie attack in the sheds after a hard-fought win // Getty Images

I chatted with a few of the players after the game was over, and they all said it’s a really good concept.

From what I gathered, it’s just a matter of being able to get the amount of grass on the wicket the right length to keep the ball in good condition but to also ensure it doesn’t move around too much as might have been the case at times over the past few days.

A few of the batters said they never really ‘in’ on that pitch because there was always going to be a delivery that did something and had their name on it, and I guess we saw that in the scores with nobody posting a century after so many runs in the previous two Tests.

But all in all, the players I spoke to were very happy with it.

And it’s been a long time since I’ve been around a Test that finished inside three days and yet there was hardly anybody saying the pitch had spoiled the match, which is what normally happens when teams are getting bowled out quickly and cheaply.

All the talk I’ve heard has been about how good the day-night concept was and about the spectacle and the fact that it was an old-fashioned contest, so it’s good to have a bit of celebration about how good the game was rather than choosing to dwell on things to be negative about.

The other big talking point across the three days was the untimely foot injury to Mitchell Starc that seems likely to keep him out of the remainder of the Test summer.

Coming so soon after Mitchell Johnson announced his retirement, it’s definitely going to test the depth of fast bowling stocks that we’ve been talking about in Australian cricket for a while now. 

WATCH: Johnson's raw goodbye

Before tossing up a few options to replace Starcy in the opening Test against the West Indies in Hobart next week, I want to make mention of Mitchell Johnson’s decision to call it quits in from international cricket.

To say I was surprised is a bit of an understatement because I had a conversation with him the day or so before the start of the second Test in Perth that turned out to be his last, and he told me he was going really well.

So for that reason it was a bit of a shock, but in other ways I knew it wasn’t far off especially after he said before that Test began that he had been thinking about retirement for a while.

Certainly when we were opening the bowling together a few years ago, we used to talk about it a lot to one another when we caught up for a chat.

About how we’d know it was the right time, and when that time might be.

As it turned out, my knee made that decision for me in England earlier this year.

But Mitch obviously got to the stage where he wasn’t enjoying what he was doing out there during that game in Perth, and once you get to that point it’s not doing anyone any favours to keep playing on.

Like so many others, I didn’t want him to finish because I loved watching him play but he knew the time was right and he leaves as one of the great fast bowlers the game has known.

Then to see Mitch Starc go down with that foot injury last Friday was shattering, especially when you look at how well he’s been going for pretty much the whole of this year. 

WATCH: Starc injures foot on day one in Adelaide

I can only hope that it’s not as serious as some first thought and that he’s back swinging the ball – red, white or pink – at pace very soon.

To be brutally honest, I reckon he could probably do with a bit of a rest.

He’s played a lot of cricket for Australia, for New South Wales and in the IPL of late so perhaps if there is to be a silver lining to that cloud it is that he gets a bit of time away from the game.

And it gives a chance for Jimmy Pattinson, who I expect will come straight into that spot as the attacking, aggressive fast bowler for the next Test.

If the selectors are looking for an additional pace bowler to come into the squad for that first Test against the West Indies in Hobart, then I believe Nathan Coulter-Nile is probably the guy they’d look to.

He’s been around the one-day and T20 set-up with the Australia team for a while, so he’s due to get a start sometime soon.

He’s quick and can hit the pitch hard, so he deserves a chance at Test level having already shown his stuff at limited-overs level. 

Pattinson and Coulter-Nile could be fighting for one spot. Figuratively // Getty Images

Apart from him, I know Andrew Fekete was obviously around the mark when the Australia selectors named the squad for the Bangladesh series that was then postponed.

But I gather he’s been struggling a bit at the start of the Sheffield Shield season and briefly lost his place in the Tasmania side.

And Jackson Bird would be the other one who would come into the reckoning given his international experience and his knowledge of the conditions in Hobart.

However, I don’t think they would play Jackson and Peter Siddle together in the same team because they’re similar sorts of bowlers, and I think Sidds deserves a good long run in that role now.

He’s been a bit unlucky with selection but he showed again in Adelaide, admittedly on a wicket that suited seam bowling, that he’s still got that accuracy and can always maintain a lot of pressure on batsmen.

So I imagine he’ll be in there with Josh Hazlewood and Pattinson as our pace attack on a Blundstone Arena pitch that will probably be pretty flat if recent Tests there provide any guide.

But maybe after the success of the spectacle in Adelaide they might leave a bit of grass on it and it will be another gripping contest like we saw with the pink ball under lights.

I know the fast bowling fraternity would enjoy that.

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