Pakistan v Australia Test - Men's
Depth check for fast bowler talent pool
With uncertainty surrounding Australia's front-line pace attack, we take stock of the talent waiting in the wings for a shot at Baggy Green
8 August 2018, 04:28 PM AEST
With uncertainty surrounding the fitness of Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins ahead of the Qantas Tour of the UAE, Australia's pace stocks are on high alert with the possibility of Test spots up for grabs.
Hazlewood and Cummins are on the comeback trail from their respective back injuries, and further scans this week in Brisbane where Australia's leading players have gathered at the Bupa National Cricket Centre will give a clearer indication of their ability to make the tour.
Mitchell Starc is further down the road to recovery having returned to the nets some three weeks ago and, barring something unforeseen, seems certain to lead Australia's attack in Tests against Pakistan in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which could yet see Nathan Lyon have a spinning companion.
But should Hazlewood and Cummins lose their race against time, there's a number of contenders waiting in the wings, and that's not including the likes of James Pattinson, Jason Behrendorff and Nathan Coulter-Nile, who are on track to return to domestic cricket this summer.
It means performances with the ball on the upcoming Australia A tour of India are potentially as likely to shape the Test team as performances with the bat.
Here we take a look – in alphabetical order – at nine contenders to step up should Hazlewood and Cummins be ruled out.
Seemingly perennially on the fringe of the Test team, Jackson Bird will again be right in the mix should there be a vacancy in the Test squad. He has played sporadically over the past few seasons, and an ill-timed hamstring injury kept him out of the South Africa Test tour at the back end of last summer. Bird has been working hard on his fitness this off-season, a trait that would serve him well if called upon to step up against Pakistan.
The promising Queensland quick has a bright future, and there will be no bigger opportunity for him to grab it than the coming Australia A tour. Doggett was one of the stars of this winter's Aboriginal XI tour of the UK that marked the 150th anniversary of Australia's first international touring team. He only has one Sheffield Shield season under his belt, playing seven games in Queensland's title-winning season, with 28 wickets at 27.71, and showed a big-game temperament with a five-wicket haul in the final against Tasmania. A tall man from Rockhampton cattle country, the 24-year-old hits his lines and lengths consistently. With four ducks in his past five first-class innings, he's a genuine No.11.
The South Africa-born Queenslander was a surprise late inclusion on the winter white-ball tour of the UK, where he had a harsh introduction to the rigours of international cricket. He has been hugely impressive for Queensland in their Shield campaigns with the red Dukes ball in hand, but has not yet mastered being as effective with the Kookaburra, the ball that will be used in the UAE. The Australia A tour will be revealing to see how he fares on subcontinent pitches, but next winter's Ashes could be where Neser is more suited to making his mark.
The 25-year-old Western Australian left-armer got his international debut replacing Mitchell Starc against India in two ODIs in early 2016. A potent force in white-ball cricket, he has struggled with injury in recent seasons, and his sole Sheffield Shield match last summer ended a 737-day domestic first-class drought. The only left-armer in the Australia A squad, he shapes as a possible back-up for Starc if required. Seven first-class matches have yielded 40 wickets at 19.20 to underline the potential he promises.
The 21-year-old Western Australian has played just six first-class games, but that didn't stop him being included in Australia's Test squad for the ill-fated South Africa tour in March. Whether that was an indication of his spot in the pecking order, or a useful learning opportunity is hard to gauge, but head coach Justin Langer will be well aware of Richardson's capabilities from their time together at WA. A short man for a fast bowler, he is rapid, with speeds regularly in the high 140kph, and he could be seen as a good replacement for Cummins. He's also agile and athletic in the field, and extremely fit.
The incumbent third seamer, after he replaced Starc in Australia's last Test, against South Africa in Johannesburg. He caused the great AB de Villiers some issues then claimed him as a famous first Test scalp. He picked up his two Test wickets in the one over through the sort of seam movement that has made him a potent force in the JLT Sheffield Shield for the past five years. The docile nature of UAE pitches may blunt his effectiveness.
A proven veteran of 62 Test matches, Peter Siddle offers selectors the security of knowing they'll have a bowler who will run in all day, every day for his country and deliver. He hasn't been seen in Baggy Green since the WACA Test of November 2016 but has continued to produce for Victoria, and has been in hot form for Essex in the UK's County Championship this winter, delivering 20 wickets in four matches at 16.10.
The most exciting prospect among Australian cricket's next generation of fast-bowling talent. Billy Stanlake is fast – very fast – and combined with his sky-scraping release point, has proved a handful for batsmen everywhere he goes. The 23-year-old has been a terror on the white-ball circuit, impressing for Australia's T20 side, but was part of the chastening winter whitewash at the hands of England. How he responds to that will be key to his development this summer, and the Australia A tour offers an early opportunity to show his resilience and character. He is still developing physically to get his body better equipped to handle first-class cricket. The UAE may be too soon for him, but the potential is astronomical.
The leading wicket-taker across the past three Sheffield Shield seasons with 129 at 20.39, Tremain has genuine pace and proven effectiveness on flat wickets, having done the hard yards on the dead MCG wickets with Victoria. How the lessons learned there translate to Asia will be put to the test on the Australia A series, and if he can replicate that domestic form abroad he would be a front-runner for any vacancy.
Australia A Tour of India
Australia A one-day squad: Travis Head (c), Alex Carey (vc), Ashton Agar, Peter Handscomb, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Michael Neser, Joel Paris, Matthew Renshaw, Jhye Richardson, D'Arcy Short, Billy Stanlake, Mitch Swepson, Chris Tremain, Jack Wildermuth
One-day fixtures in Vijayawada
17 August v India A
19 August v South Africa A
21 August v India B
23 August v India A
25 August v South Africa A
27 August v India B
29 August - Quad-Series Final
Australia A four-day squad: Mitchell Marsh (c), Alex Carey (vc), Ashton Agar, Brendan Doggett, Peter Handscomb, Travis Head, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Michael Neser, Joel Paris, Kurtis Patterson, Matthew Renshaw, Mitch Swepson, Chris Tremain
Four-day fixtures in Vizag
2-5 September v India A
8-11 September v India A