Twelve years on, Australia realise fast-bowling dream
Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and James Pattinson celebrate their first ever Test together by routing England in less than 28 overs
Andrew Ramsey at Headingley, Leeds
24 August 2019, 09:31 AM AEST
It was more than a dozen years ago, at a community sports club located in the burgeoning urban sprawl between Brisbane and the Gold Coast, that Australia's cricket scouts sensed they might be on the cusp of a golden age of fast bowlers.
As Josh Hazlewood remembers it, that was January 2007 when the national under-17 championships were held in Brisbane, and Dauth Park at Beenleigh was the site of a fixture between perennial heavyweights New South Wales and Victoria.
The Blues' attack was spearheaded by a couple of rangy teenagers, Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc, while Victoria's front man was young firebrand James Pattinson.
The trio locked horns again at Australia's under-19 titles two years later, at the marginally more prepossessing venue of Jack Collins Oval in Newcastle, north of Sydney.
But if they were to form the basis of Australia's fast bowling plans for the ensuing decade and beyond they didn't show it during the 50-over contest on that day in December, 2008.
Hazlewood and Pattinson both finished the day wicketless, while Starc (bowling first change behind Tim Armstrong) claimed one on what was clearly a spinner's pitch – the most effective bowlers being rival left-arm spinners Luke Doran and Clive Rose.
Remarkably, until Hazlewood, Starc and Pattinson took part – along with the other aspirants for Australia's Ashes squad – in an intra-squad practice game at Southampton last month, that Newcastle match remained the last time they appeared on field in the same game.
Not as teammates and opponents in more than a decade of the Sheffield Shield competition. Not in the annual domestic one-day tournament. Nor in the various iterations of the KFC Big Bash League.
Given that Starc has yet to force his way into Australia's starting XI for the current Ashes quest, the dream that had unfolded before national development coaches and talent scouts 12 years ago remains unfulfilled.
But an even more lucrative prospect had arisen as the three friends turned occasional rivals fought the sort of long-term injuries that bedevil young fast bowlers.
And that was the emergence of another clearly exciting talent, Pat Cummins, who is several years younger than Starc, Pattinson (both now 29) and Hazlewood (28).
The possibility of having all four fast bowlers fit and available for a single series has remained a sort of philosopher's stone dream for a series of national selectors, coaches and administrators.
But on a sunny Friday morning at historic Headingley Stadium in Leeds, it finally came to be – at least in one formation.
And it's fair to assume that not even the most optimistic of soothsayers would have dared imagine that getting Hazlewood, Pattinson and Cummins on the park and wearing Baggy Green Caps would prove so destructive.
In less than 28 overs – of which the trio bowled all but one – spread over just two-and-half-hours, they flattened England for 67, Australia's great rival's lowest Ashes total in 61 years and their worst-ever at Headingley.
As Hazlewood noted at day's end, basking in the acclaim brought by his 5-30 from 12.5 immaculate overs, it proved an occasion as special as the troupe had envisaged when the teams were confirmed at Thursday morning's coin toss.
"We've played against each other at certain times, but Patty (Cummins) is a little bit younger," Hazlewood said after day two of the third Test, which Australia leads by 283 runs with four second-innings wickets intact.
'I've played against Patto in under-17s and under-19s, but this was the first time (together).
"I think the way that Cummins is bowling at the moment is pretty special, he's taking wickets with the new or old ball, it doesn't matter about the (pitch) and he's doing his business up front or late in the innings.
"And I think every time Jimmy (Pattinson) plays, you feel like he's always at the batsmen, he can take wickets in clumps, he's awesome to have in your team.
"He brings that energy to your bowling group, and the team in general and I felt pretty happy with those two bowling at the other end."
The reasons why that trio, along with Starc, have not played more cricket in unison have been widely chronicled over the past decade.
All four have suffered long-term injuries at various stages, with Pattinson (four stress fractures in his back and a recent bout of radical surgery) and Cummins (three back stress fractures meaning a six-year hiatus between his first and second Tests) enduring the longest absences.
As a consequence, the times in which combinations of the quartet have been available in a single year, let alone for an entire series, have been as rare as the appearance of world-class fast bowlers from junior ranks.
Pattinson has played four Tests alongside Starc (the most recent in the 2013 Ashes series in the UK), and as many with Hazlewood (none between early 2016 and this current Test at Headingley).
And while Cummins' recent resilience means he's played 17 with Hazlewood and 13 with Starc over the past two years, his only stint sharing a ball with Pattinson in Tests came at Edgbaston at the start of this Ashes contest.
But now, with all three fit and ferocious as Friday's demolition so ominously showed, they can be unleashed in such carefully controlled measures that Starc has not even been required in the first three Tests to date.
It's a situation that's bound to change in the coming weeks, with Starc sure to be let loose in the upcoming three-day tour game against Derbyshire and then one, or both, of the fourth (Old Trafford) and fifth (The Oval) Tests to follow.
If that's cold comfort for England's batters, who were undone as much by the relentless pressure created by the three quicks as by their regular array of wicket-taking deliveries on Friday, then it's a talking point within the fast bowlers' cartel as well.
"The way the series is set out, we've got six great quicks (also including Peter Siddle and uncapped Michael Neser) here and I think that keeps you on your toes as much as anything," Hazlewood said.
"On days like today, if you bowl poorly it might be your last game of the series, that's how good the quicks are on the bench.
"When you look over, or if they're running out a towel or a drink to you at fine leg, it's Mitch Starc or it's Peter Siddle.
"And you're like 'these guys should be playing', so it certainly keeps you on your toes and I think that's a good thing."
Hazlewood said it's that competition created by the presence of fellow quicks who were opponents before they became teammates that further drives the already strong ambition to win an Ashes series in the UK.
It's that adrenaline surge that kept him operating for all but one over from the football ground end at Headingley during Friday's morning session (11 overs), and which has them pushing to the limit in every spell.
Not only to do their bit for the group, but to shore up their berth for the next Test.
"At times (in past years) you might get a little bit comfortable or relaxed that nobody's really knocking the door down," Hazlewood said of the regular rounds of injuries that have kept him and his peers on the sidelines.
"I guess that can happen at certain times.
"But when they're right here training every day, putting pressure on you every day, it adds that extra element."
It's a combination that's been 12 years in the planning, and undoubtedly worth the wait in its execution.
Unless, of course, you’re an England batter.
2019 Qantas Ashes Tour of England
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.
England squad: Joe Root (c), Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jack Leach, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes (vc), Chris Woakes.
First Test: Australia beat England by 251 runs at Edgbaston
Second Test: Match drawn at Lord's
Third Test: August 22-26, Headingley
Tour match: Australians v Derbyshire, August 29-31
Fourth Test: September 4-8, Old Trafford
Fifth Test: September 12-16, The Oval