Domain Tests v Sri Lanka
Pick Ashes bolters for SL Tests: Johnson
Former Test paceman nominates three uncapped quicks who he thinks can put pressure on Australia's incumbent fast bowlers ahead of the Ashes
6 January 2019, 10:36 AM AEST
Former Test quick Mitchell Johnson says Australia's star quicks "need to be pushed for their places" and has called on selectors to use the upcoming Sri Lankan series to take a closer look at some uncapped fast bowlers ahead of this year's Ashes series.
Johnson has nominated South Australian swing bowler Daniel Worrall and Victorian duo Scott Boland and Chris Tremain as fast men who could have an impact in the UK this year, adding left-armer Mitchell Starc is the bowler most vulnerable to losing his spot in the XI.
Australia's opponents have declared in six of the past 12 innings in which the Aussies have bowled, including the past three against India – the first time ever that's happened on home soil in a single series.
The recent returns with the ball have sharpened the focus on Australia's bowling quartet of Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon, who were instrumental to their 4-0 Ashes triumph last summer.
Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins have been rested for the upcoming Gillette ODI Series, a move Johnson has also questioned, saying the change in format could have helped them rediscover their best form.
With the two-Test series against Sri Lanka that starts later this month the only five-day cricket Australia will play before their Ashes defence, Johnson says it's a golden opportunity for selectors to look at other options.
"Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins have excellent records over their careers, but have not been able to get the job done this summer," Johnson wrote in his column for The Sunday Times.
"They now need to be pushed for their places and the Sri Lanka series provides an opportunity to look at some quicks who could be successful in English conditions."
Johnson says that given Redbacks swinger Worrall – who he believes "could play a significant role in the Ashes" – is currently sidelined due to injury, Boland and Tremain should be given a chance against Sri Lanka.
And he says Starc, who has taken 13 wickets at 34 against India, should be the one left out.
"The question of who would make room for them is a difficult one, however on current form Starc might need to make way," the two-time Ashes tourist wrote.
"Starc has a tremendous overall record but has not enjoyed the best past year. He appears to be struggling with a lack of rhythm.
"The selectors missed a trick by resting the three pacemen from the upcoming one-day international series against India. Starc bowls really well with the white ball and could have used the 50-over format to find form and confidence. He could have been left out of the Sydney Test and then unleashed with the white ball and with a point to prove."
Skipper Tim Paine conceded his bowlers haven't been at their best in Melbourne and Sydney in recent weeks but noted India had benefited from forcing Australia to bowl long spells in the past two Tests on unhelpful surfaces.
"They made us bowl 170 overs in Melbourne, 160-odd again in Sydney. That takes its toll," Paine said on Friday.
"At the end of a long series, you can get some real rewards if you can make teams bowl lots and lots of overs.
"That's what you saw ... it's an extremely tough ask on fast bowlers and even Lyno (Nathan Lyon), to keep coming in and bowling and bowling and bowling when you're not getting a hell of a lot of reward."
Worrall had an injury-plagued 2018 but showed what he is capable of with a short but successful stint with English county side Gloucestershire in the winter. He then took 17 wickets in two JLT Sheffield Shield games before injury struck again just before the mid-season break.
Boland and Tremain are the leading Shield wicket-takers so far this season and Tremain is clearly on the radar for higher honours having been named in an extended Test squad for the first Indian Test.
Johnson teamed up with Starc and Hazlewood in an imposing pace attack during Australia's 2015 Ashes campaign in the UK, but they weren't able to prevent a 3-2 series loss.
Victorian veteran Peter Siddle, who has vast experience in English county cricket, took six wickets in the final Test of that series and is in the frame for his fourth Ashes tour this year.
Domain Test Series v Sri Lanka
Jan 24-28: First Test, Gabba (D/N)
Feb 1-5: Second Test, Canberra