n captain Steven Smith with Mitchell Starc on Tuesday. Photo: Cricket /Getty ImagesAs it happened: v Pakistan, Day Two
n bowling coach David Saker has warned the national selectors they risk having one of their star fast bowlers break down unless a “desperate” search for an allrounder is successful.
Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Jackson Bird have carried the attack through the opening two days of a rain-marred second Test in Melbourne, delivering 78.2 of the 101.2 overs bowled as Pakistan reached 6-310 when stumps was called early on Tuesday because of drizzle and bad light.
Their heavy load comes after Starc and Hazlewood each bowled 56 overs in the opening Test in Brisbane, while Bird accounted for 45.
Uncapped West n fast-bowling allrounder Hilton Cartwright was drafted into the squad for the Melbourne Test but was overlooked in the XI in favour of struggling batsman Nic Maddinson, who will be fighting for his immediate future if he gets the chance to take to the crease on Wednesday.
Spinner Nathan Lyon has been given only 17 overs, including just six on day two, through a combination of having to use a wet ball and the quicks looking more dangerous.
Saker, the former England bowling coach, said he was concerned about the reliance on the three front-line pacemen.
“There is, there is no doubt about that. We go in with four bowlers. You are always going to overload someone if the opposition are good enough to bat for long period of times and also today because the ball was wet at times it was hard to bowl the spinner as well. So, that’s another little bit of a dilemma as well,” he said on Tuesday.
“Yes, it’s a concern but you can’t do much about when you go in with four bowlers. Someone is going to get some overload, so it’s not always great but that’s where we are in n cricket at the moment. We are desperately looking for that allrounder who can bowl some overs for us.”
Mitch Marsh had been used as a fast-bowling allrounder before he was axed after the losing Perth Test against South Africa. While his bowling was largely effective, his lack of runs with the bat had become a concern.
Saker said he understood why the selectors had shown faith in Maddinson but conceded there could be injury repercussions.
“I would like six or seven bowlers in a team if I could, but I am the bowling coach. My job is to try and get 20 wickets. The more bowlers in the team the more likely that is to happen but, right at the moment, the selectors have gone the way they have gone,” he said.
“It’s a good sign of faith in Maddinson, saying: ‘We are going to give you another go at that.’ I don’t mind that but they have to realise as an n team we have to realise that sometimes overloads probably your strike bowlers which could have a detrimental effect down the road. That’s not my decision to make. They make the best decisions with the best interests of the team.”
Hazlewood has enjoyed a strong summer, and his ability to pitch up and move the ball was on show on Tuesday when he had Sarfraz Ahmed caught at first slip by Matt Renshaw.
He claimed 17 wickets against South Africa to start the summer, compared to Starc’s 14, but the latter grabbed seven wickets at the Gabba last week.
Saker said Hazlewood had benefited from being rested from the one-day series in South Africa in October – a decision which had attracted public criticism. He said he had no concerns about a bowler breaking down in next week’s third Test in Sydney.
“We got a lot of flak from that but I think Josh Hazlewood, particularly, has come back and bowled as probably as good as he has bowled in his career,” he said.
“I think that little strength and conditioning block for him has been fantastic. I think that has helped him get through these Tests and I am confident we will get through the next Test in Sydney with these guys.”
Hazlewood is on the cusp of enjoying his 100th wicket in his 25th Test. Starc took 27 Tests to achieve this mark. Pace greats Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson took 22 Tests, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne 23 Tests, while Jason Gillespie and Ryan Harris took 24.
Starc’s pace has been good in Melbourne – he has touched 150km/h – but he is wicketless and appears to have lost the late in-swinging delivery which has tormented many a batsman.
“It would be nice if he got that back consistently, sometimes it’s not always about the bowler, it’s sometimes the ball and the conditions,” Saker said.
“He lacked a little bit of rhythm today mainly because his front foot was slipping. If you bowl fast and your front foot is slipping, it’s one of the more scarier things because you think you are going to break down every ball you bowl. That’s always playing a part in your mind. There is no excuse but that is quite hard to deal with when your front foot is slipping.”
Former n swing bowler Damien Fleming said Starc had lost – at least temporarily – his piercing inswinger to the right-handed batsman.
“The bonus for Mitch Starc is he still has the attributes of height, pace and bounce but what sets him apart is his late swing. He hasn’t had that this summer,” he said on Macquarie radio.
Lyon, despite enjoying strong crowd support, has also not had the match he would have wanted, claiming only the one wicket, although he has had limited opportunities.
“I think the wet ball played a big part of it,” Saker said. “He probably would have got more of a go in that last session if we didn’t come off. But they (Pakistan) have also played him quite well, especially their right handers.”