Skipper Smith open to 'Big Four' for Ashes

Bowlers’ ability with the bat means four-pronged pace attack will be considered for the coming Test summer

The terrifying prospect of the 'Big Four' fast bowlers being unleashed on England together this summer has received its biggest endorsement to date, with Australia captain Steve Smith confirming he's open to the idea for the Magellan Ashes.

With Australia naming an XI with little bowling back-up for their four specialist bowlers to take on Bangladesh from Sunday, questions remain over the balance of the Test side for the home summer.

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Smith, who isn't a member of the National Selection Panel, said the combined batting ability of quicks Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and James Pattinson could see those three feature alongside Josh Hazlewood and spinner Nathan Lyon in a fearsome five-man attack at the Gabba on November 23.

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"I guess it’s nice that all the fast bowlers – probably take Josh out of it – Starc, Cummins and Pattinson all bat pretty well," Smith told reporters in Dhaka.

"So I won’t say that we’ll do it but there’s a possibility that it could certainly happen, that you could play all four and Nathan Lyon.

"(That) probably leaves the batting a little bit light, but those guys do hold the bat pretty well.

"So it’s something to certainly think about.

"Hopefully someone nails down the No.6 spot and we don’t have to worry about that."

It's up for debate whether a lower-order featuring incumbent wicketkeeper Matthew Wade at No.6, followed by Starc, Pattinson and Cummins in some order at 7, 8 and 9 presents too long of a tail.

But all three of those speedsters have made impressive contributions with the bat in recent times.

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Starc now has nine half-centuries and a Test 99 to his name, Pattinson is averaging a tick over 40 in first-class cricket this year while Cummins batted as high as six for his Big Bash side Sydney Thunder last season.

Selectors have shown a willingness to move away from picking a seam-bowling allrounder who bats in the top six, with batsman Nic Maddinson and batting allrounders Hilton Cartwright and Glenn Maxwell all tried at No.6 in recent months.

And after his breakthrough hundred against India in Ranchi earlier this year, Maxwell now has the chance to make that spot his own in Bangladesh and perhaps put paid to the ‘Big Four’ possibility, according to Smith.

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"I thought he played pretty well in India obviously to get a hundred,” the skipper said.

"I think he got a 40 or 50 in the last Test match as well, (he) played a lot better than a lot of other guys in that last Test match.

"He certainly has the opportunity to nail down that spot, that’s for sure."

Another Ashes consideration for Australia this summer is the depth in England's Test batting-order.

Major questions loom over the three top-five spots not occupied by captain Joe Root and his predecessor Alastair Cook.

But their current No.6, 7 and 8 (Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali) now have 14 Test tons under their belts after Stokes' even 100 against West Indies on Friday, and their No.9 Chris Woakes has scored nine first-class hundreds.

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While Smith remains firmly focused on the two-Test series in Bangladesh, the 28-year-old admits the long list of capable batsman England possess could pose a challenge.

"They’ve got a very deep line up," he said.

"Stuart Broad is batting at No.10 now and he’s scored some Test 50s and a hundred as well … so he can obviously play.

"They bat pretty deep and we’ll have to think about that in the lead up to the Ashes." 

2017-18 International Fixtures:

Magellan Ashes Series

First Test Gabba, November 23-27. Buy tickets

Second Test Adelaide Oval, December 2-6 (Day-Night). Buy tickets

Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Buy tickets

Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Buy tickets

Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Buy tickets

ODI Series v England

First ODI MCG, January 14. Buy tickets

Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Buy tickets

Third ODI SCG, January 21. Buy tickets

Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Buy tickets

Fifth ODI Perth TBC, January 28. Join the ACF

Prime Minister's XI

PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Buy tickets

T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series

First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Buy tickets

Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Buy tickets

Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Buy tickets

Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 13

Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16

Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21