Australia Tour of England - Men's
Mitch makes a Starc case for Ashes recall
Australia's fearsome left-armer added to the clamour to include him in the fourth Test XI with a superb performance in the Derby tour match
Sam Ferris at the County Ground, Derby
1 September 2019, 09:13 AM AEST
Australia paceman Mitch Starc has given plenty of batsmen a headache during his career but after the rapid left-armer's performance in Derby he might have left the National Selection Panel with one too, albeit the good kind.
Starc claimed 7-85 in 26.4 overs in Australia's innings and 54-run win over Derbyshire, bowling with the express pace and swing that has seen him take 211 Test wickets in 51 matches.
But the 29-year-old has not added to that tally this Ashes series. In the first three Tests, Australia's selectors went for Pat Cummins (three Tests), Peter Siddle, Josh Hazlewood and James Pattinson (two Tests each) as the tourists' specialist quicks.
It is a tough XI to break into, especially after the trio of Cummins, Hazlewood and Pattinson bowled out England for 67 in the first innings at Headingley.
The NSP has been keen to rotate through their fast bowling battery to keep them fresh and stave off injury, but pitch and overhead conditions have not yet aligned to see Starc's number called.
Australia's bowling strategy of building pressure through maiden overs and limiting the boundary ball goes against Starc's modus operandi of aggressive bowling that can leak runs but equally take wickets in bursts and when there is little help from the pitch.
Starc's ability to blast batsmen out in quick succession was on show in Derby, where he captured his three first-innings wickets in one over, knocking over the hosts No.8, 9 and 10, and finished the match with two wickets in as many balls.
He has spent his time on the sidelines and in his rare chances on the field in tour matches working on finding that balance between all-out aggression and unrelenting accuracy.
National selector Trevor Hohns has been impressed with the strides Starc has made during the campaign but does not want the towering quick to completely alter a method that's reaped rewards in the past.
"Right from the start of the tour it was made very clear what was expected of our bowlers and where we wanted them to bowl, and Mitchell has taken all that on board and he was worked very, very hard to improve his game in that area," Hohns said in Derby on Saturday.
"We all know he is an aggressor, so we can’t expect him to change the way he bowls too much.
"But he is doing everything he possibly can to bowl in the right areas and the right channels."
In addition to Starc's speed and hostility, his knack of blowing away tail-end batsmen has been missed in the Ashes series to date.
At Edgbaston, England's final two wickets added 74 to extend their first innings lead to 90, which ultimately proved to be inconsequential, but at Headingley last week, when Ben Stokes and Jack Leach added 76 for the final wicket, a thunderbolt Starc yorker might have been useful.
That is certainly what former Australia captain Ricky Ponting was thinking as he watched the drama unfold in the commentary box.
"I must admit, as the game was sort of slipping away the other day the only image I had in my head was Starc bowling Stokes at The Oval in that World Cup with a yorker right at the base of off-stump," Ponting said on the latest episode of The Unplayable Podcast.
"And even someone like (No.11) Jack Leach, I'm not sure he would have been that keen on facing Mitchell Starc at 150kph with the ball reversing back onto his toes either.
"The game might have been completely different had Starc played but in situations like that when the tail is in and the ball is old he just knocks them over for fun.
"I watched him in the nets two mornings during that Test match and he bowled beautifully.
"I know it's a different kettle of fish, but he did bowl well, bowled fast and swung the ball. They're all the things you're looking for with Mitchell Starc."
Perhaps counting in Starc's favour is the tight remaining Ashes schedule and the pitch in Manchester.
Australia have just three days to prepare for the fourth Test, which starts on Wednesday, before having another three days between Manchester and The Oval for the fifth and final Test from September 12.
The Old Trafford pitch is also understood to be the fastest and bounciest in the county, which would suit Starc's skillset down the ground.
The selectors have showed their hand at picking horses for courses, and if a quick pitch is on offer, Starc's name will undoubtedly be in the conversation for a Test recall.
"He's certainly given us a good option there (in Manchester)," Hohns said.
"We'll have a look at the pitch of course and we have heard that it is renowned for being possibly the quickest in the country.
"That will all be taken into account."
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
Tour match: Australians v Derbyshire, August 29-31
Fourth Test: September 4-8, Old Trafford
Fifth Test: September 12-16, The Oval