Starc trumps Head yet again in decade-long duel

Five dismissals in seven games, including four ducks. Mitchell Starc's hold over Travis Head now extends to the IPL

Mitchell Starc continues his hold over Travis Head

This might have been a nightmare Travis Head thought was behind him.

In 2015, three days after belting a 118-ball double-century, the gifted 21-year-old was clean bowled by a Mitchell Starc out-swinger on the first ball of a North Sydney Oval domestic one-dayer.

When Head’s South Australia and Starc’s New South Wales faced off in the tournament final at the same venue two-and-a-half weeks later, Head was castled by a near-identical Starc delivery.

The left-armer, with 22 Tests to his name at that point, was surely living rent-free in the head of the uncapped Head, still in his first year as the Redbacks' youngest ever captain.

Starc had the better of Head in their early match-ups // Getty

After Head was caught down the leg-side for another golden duck in the second innings of a Sheffield Shield match beginning three days later, the Head v Starc match-up was 3-4 from 18 deliveries – all in the space of a single month.

Two years later when they next came up against each other, that became 4-7 from 27 balls as Starc clean ripped him yet again in a Shield game.

So, even despite Head’s ascendancy in the intervening years to becoming one of the world’s most feared all-format batters, he could have been forgiven for having flashbacks to how their rivalry began almost a decade ago.

The match-up in this year's Indian Premier League qualifier final between Starc's Kolkata Knight Riders and Head's Sunrisers Hyderabad, at the world’s biggest cricket stadium in Ahmedabad, between a duo that fetched A$5.5 million between them, would decide the contest.

After Head's eager opening partner, Abhishek Sharma, was nearly run out at the non-striker's end on the first ball of the game, Starc pulled out his party trick as he uprooted the middle and off stumps of this IPL season's most destructive batter.

"I might keep that one in the back pocket for when he starts to give me some niggle and I have to pull it out on him," Starc said of Head, having now dismissed him five times in seven games across all formats, four times before he has scored a run.

"He's been phenomenal through the tournament, we knew he was going to be a big wicket."

Rival IPL bowlers would do well to ask Starc for advice.

Head has had an extraordinary campaign, even allowing for ducks in his past two innings; coming into Tuesday's game, he was averaging close to 50 with a strike-rate above 200.

The only two batters to have scored more than his 533 runs – Bengaluru's Virat Kohli (708 runs) and Chennai's Ruturaj Gaikwad (533) – have faced 188 and 146 more deliveries than Head respectively.

His Sunrisers side captained by fellow Aussie Pat Cummins will get a second chance by virtue of finishing in the top two, facing the winner of the Royal Challengers Bengaluru-Rajasthan Royals eliminator clash later this week.

Starc's Kolkata side are through to the final, and the Knight Riders' faith in the 34-year-old despite having recorded the second-highest economy rate of any bowler to have sent down at least 25 overs was vindicated.

IPL teams have a reputation for losing faith quickly in overseas players, perhaps understandably given the enviable international talent that invariably rides the bench every season.

Sri Lankan paceman Dushmantha Chameera has been waiting in the wings for KKR, playing just one game.

But the club backed Starc's big-game chops.

His triumph over Head set the tone for the clash, particularly given how the opener had dominated India at the same colossal venue in November.

Starc took another two Powerplay wickets to put his team in the prime position for a straightforward run chase.

"I guess I have played a fair bit of cricket so I have been fortunate enough to play in some big games and some big occasions," Starc said in the innings break of KKR's eight-wicket win.

"Nine months ago we were here in front of a full stadium. It was nice to get the team off to a good start that we needed.

"We know the Powerplay wickets are very important. The way Sunrisers take on the Powerplay, they have matched us throughout the season in terms of getting off to good starts. It was fantastic to get Powerplay wickets and I think our bowling group was fantastic throughout."

Starc later put down his success to bringing his length back while still searching for new-ball swing,

"Particularly with the way Trav and Abhishek have been playing throughout the series, they like the width (and) free their arms," he said.

"So if we can get that ball swinging and keep it in line with the stumps and bowl a really hard length, which we really did in the powerplay, and that really got into their middle order."

IPL 2024 standings

Matches played
No results
Net Run Rate
Total points
1 Kolkata Knight Riders Kolkata Knight Riders KKR 14 9 3 0 2 1.428 0 20
2 Sunrisers Hyderabad Sunrisers Hyderabad SUN 14 8 5 0 1 0.414 0 17
3 Rajasthan Royals Rajasthan Royals RAJ 14 8 5 0 1 0.273 0 17
4 Royal Challengers Bengaluru Men Royal Challengers Bengaluru Men RCB 14 7 7 0 0 0.459 0 14
5 Chennai Super Kings Chennai Super Kings CSK 14 7 7 0 0 0.392 0 14
6 Delhi Capitals Men Delhi Capitals Men DEL 14 7 7 0 0 -0.377 0 14
7 Lucknow Super Giants Lucknow Super Giants LSG 14 7 7 0 0 -0.667 0 14
8 Gujarat Titans Gujarat Titans GUT 14 5 7 0 2 -1.063 0 12
9 Punjab Kings Punjab Kings KXI 14 5 9 0 0 -0.353 0 10
10 Mumbai Indians Mumbai Indians MI 14 4 10 0 0 -0.318 0 8

M: Matches played

W: Wins

L: Losses

T: Ties

N/R: No results

NRR: Net Run Rate

Ded.: Deductions

PTS: Total points

Australians in IPL 2024

Delhi Capitals: Mitch Marsh (A$1.2m), David Warner (A$1.16m), Jhye Richardson (A$890,000), Jake Fraser-McGurk (A$92,000)

Gujarat Titans: Spencer Johnson (A$1.78m), Matthew Wade (A$446,000)

Kolkata Knight Riders: Mitchell Starc (A$4.43m)

Lucknow Super Giants: Marcus Stoinis (A$1.7m), Ashton Turner (A$178,000)

Mumbai Indians: Tim David (A$1.53m)

Punjab Kings: Nathan Ellis (A$135,000)

Royal Challengers Bangalore: Cameron Green (A$3.15m), Glenn Maxwell (A$2m)

Sunrisers Hyderabad: Pat Cummins (A$3.67m), Travis Head (A$1.2m)

*Prices in AUD, conversions correct at time of auction