Ashes 2013 preview: Part one – the pace attack

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As Australian cricket fans watch the Test against South Africa in Perth, they can’t help but keep one eye on the spectre that is the 2013 Ashes series.

Spiro has astutely concluded that the Australian cricket team, as it stands, does not have the shape to win back the Ashes in 2013.

So what does Spiro mean when he talks about shape in a cricket team?

A cricket team must be balanced so that it may deal with a number of different variables. This means a team (and a captain) must also have a diverse range of skills in order to address the various situations that may be encountered.

While the Australian team is currently playing close to their best, I believe that the lack of shape will mean that their best, put simply, will not be good enough against the English in 2013.

So in this three part series I want to address three crucial areas for Australia’s playing stocks moving forward:

• The quicks
• The batsmen and
• The area closest to my heart, the spinners.

First, it is important for us to accept that our pace attack is two dimensional and at times (especially during those fourth and fifth days) it can be like watching a butter knife cut steak.

An attack of Siddle/Hilfenhaus and Pattinson, while perfect on paper (i.e. Siddle the hard deck bowler, Hilfenhaus the swing bowler and Pattinson the strike bowler), in reality does not seem to threaten to the level we need from our opening bowlers.

After watching what young Kiwi Trent Boult could do with the ball last night in the Sri Lanka test, you could not help but draw comparisons with Mitchell Starc.

Boult is growing immeasurably from game to game, after being exposed to conditions and batsmen like Jayawardene, Sangakarra and Dilshan (on one occasion he cut the latter in half with an incredible late inswinger) – Starc needs this experience.

Starc should permanently take the place of Ben Hilfenhaus. He would provide the Australian attack with youth, hunger and a left arm option.

Siddle must hold his place. Which leaves the one quick spot open in the Australian team.

Here are the contenders. Note that I haven’t mentioned Pat Cummins – I am sick of him and his injuries:

• Josh Hazlewood: Young up and comer, who has gone through the system (so is the heavy favourite despite indifferent statistics: 15 FC matches, 41 wickets at 31.97, at a strike rate of a wicket every 10 overs).
• Jackson Bird (who ironically took six wickets in the game in which Mitch Johnson took four, leading to reselection in the Aussie squad). Bird is my pick of the bowlers. He is developing into a niggling, Glenn McGrath/Stuart Clark back-of-a-length style bowler – he should be a serious contender (Bird, in 17 FC games, has captured 87 wickets at 19.72 with a strike rate of a wicket every 6.5 overs).
• Ben Cutting – returning from injury and looking like he is in some good domestic form – one to watch
• Nathan Coulter-Nile: the dark horse of the pack, very highly rated by Mickey Arthur, and consistent in his performances for Australia A against England earlier this year.

I am really interested to hear what Roarers believe would be the best pace attack leading into the 2013 Ashes.

In my view, considering the conditions:

- Jackson Bird, a back of the length seamer for the green top wicket.
- Mitchell Starc, a genuine swing bowler to use the Duke during an overcast morning, and to provide some difference in angle across the right hander (and also the ability to swing it away from Alastair Cook).
- Siddle, to embrace the journeyman aspects of his bowling and to keep an abrasive and aggressive bowler in the attack
- Pattinson (if he is fit) to lead the attack, hoping he can find that 145 pace bracket once again

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