Pace bowlers aplenty, but who makes the cut?
While Cricket Australia’s rotation policy for top bowlers has received some criticism, it at least has shown the great depth of Australia’s fast bowling stocks.
Tasmanian seamer Jackson Bird showcased his worth in Australia’s annihilation of Sri Lanka inside two-and-a-half days, claiming four top-order wickets.
Although it wasn’t against the strongest opposition, the 26-year-old Bird looked the part with the new ball in hand, nibbling the Kookaburra just enough each way, a la Stuart Clark.
Bird’s impressive debut creates a welcome conundrum for both the immediate and distant futures’ of the National Selection Panel.
The makeup of the bowling attack for the third and final Test starting in Sydney next week is unclear, shrouded by the imposing form of Peter Siddle, Mitch Starc and Mitch Johnson in unison with Bird.
At the end of the day, four does not fit into three and one of the aforementioned will be resigned to carrying the Gatorade.
The longer term selection challenge is even more curious.
Once James Pattinson, Pat Cummins, Ben Hilfenhaus and to a lesser extent Ryan Harris regain fitness, who will make the final XI?
Not even the most expansive rotation policy can satisfy Australia’s plethora of fast bowlers.
First things first, it’s virtually impossible to leave the leader of the pack Peter Siddle out given his performances in the past 12 months.
The heart and soul of the Australian team is just about the first selected each test and is a given starter despite the talent challenging for his position.
Accompanying him and taking the new ball in this starting XI is fellow Victorian James Pattinson.
Pattinson’s career to date has been brilliant, exemplified by his bowling average which mirrors his young age (22).
He’s constantly in the batsman’s face, and it’s that same fieriness and exuberance, coupled with youthfulness, which gives him the edge over his fast bowling comrades.
The third and final position, assuming the team is in the traditional set-up of three seamers and a spinner, is the toughest but for mine it has to be Mitchell Johnson. On song, he is a match winner and he narrowly edges out Starc.
Johnson’s readmission to the national team has shown how good he can be when he is brimming with confidence and is mentally fresh.
His battery of the Sri Lankan batsmen bordered on assault, as he sent Prasanna Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara to hospital with suspected fractures and left the rest of the team with broken hearts.
It’s this x-factor and match winning ability that gives Johnson the nod over less-proven performers Starc and Cummins.
This same debate will rage on up to and beyond next years’ Ashes series, but we can be happy with the fact that exciting times lie ahead in the fast lane for Australia.
For what it’s worth, here is my fast-bowling pecking order: Siddle, Pattinson, Johnson, Starc, Bird, Cummins, Harris, Hilfenhaus.