Australia badly miss Starc as Cook runs amok

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

By Ronan O'Connell, Ronan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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    Australian quick Mitchell Starc, according to many cricket fans, relies too heavily on taking tail end wickets. While that’s false, there’s no doubt Australia yesterday badly missed Starc’s ability to demolish lower orders.

    As Starc ran rampant across the first three Tests, grabbing 19 wickets, many observers devalued his performance by claiming it was largely the result of bossing England’s tail. In reality, only seven of Starc’s 19 wickets were tail enders, although the left armer does have a unique ability to scythe through lower orders.

    That’s because he possesses the two weapons most effective against tail enders – an intimidating bouncer and a searing yorker.

    That’s not to suggest line and length bowling doesn’t work against lower order batsmen. But if you did a poll I think you’d find most international tail enders would say they would far rather face a delivery aimed at the top of off stump rather than one scorching towards their toes or heads.

    Steve Smith talks to Mitch Starc

    England’s tail has troubled many teams in recent years but has continually been bulldozed by Australia this series, thanks to a barrage of short balls, and Starc’s prowess. Until yesterday, that is.

    With former England skipper Alastair Cook constructing a batting masterpiece, Australia needed to concentrate on dislodging his partners.

    This went swimmingly as they dismissed Joe Root (61), Dawid Malan (14), Jonny Bairstow (22) and Moeen Ali (26) in the space of 90 minutes. With England 6-307, still trailing by 20 runs, Australia were perfectly placed to crush their tail once more and limit them to either no lead or at worst a small one.

    After harassing Chris Woakes with well-directed bouncers early in his innings, Australia abandoned this tactic. Woakes immediately looked more comfortable and frustrated the hosts for 21 overs as he contributed 26 runs to an invaluable stand of 59 with Cook.

    After Woakes, Tom Curran came and went swiftly, and then Australia once more set about bullying Stuart Broad.

    The tail ender had made just 45 runs from six innings in this series, routinely falling victim to the short ball. History looked set to repeat itself yesterday as Australia buffeted Broad with bouncers, leaving him ducking, weaving and fending the ball in the air just shy of fieldsmen.

    He moved to 13 from 25 balls, with eight of those runs coming from edges which ballooned over the wicketkeeper and slips cordon. Broad was a dead man walking and had the meek body language to match. Then, all of a sudden, Australia ditched the short stuff and started bowling length deliveries at Broad.

    While the Englishman is no longer a fine lower order batsman, he’s still a big man capable of swinging hard. Anyone who’s watched Broad bat in the past two years, during his major decline as a strokemaker, knows he’s only dangerous when the ball is pitched up.

    And so it was as Broad began heaving these friendlier offerings to scattered parts of the MCG. He scored his final 43 runs from just 38 balls. In the process, he and Cook brought up a 100-run stand which almost batted Australia out of this Test.

    From 6-307, when Moeen was dismissed, Australia had allowed England’s lower order to partner with Cook in dragging the tourists to 9-491 at stumps.

    It will take something truly extraordinary from here for Australia to win this Test. An individual performance, with bat or ball, almost as commanding as Cook’s epic 244no will be required. Realistically, though, Australia’s best hope is to force a draw.

    In playing one of the best – not most important, but best – Test knocks by a visiting batsman of the past decade, Cook has all but ensured England won’t lose this series 5-0.

    Now it’s up to his bowling comrades to tear into Australia tomorrow and convert his dominance into a rousing victory.

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco

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    The Crowd Says (69)

    • December 29th 2017 @ 6:42am
      riddler said | December 29th 2017 @ 6:42am | ! Report

      cook is an absolute legend of the game and deserves all the plaudits he receives..

      only thing that exceeds his batting ability is his humility and self-depreciating personality..

      my most favourite cricketer of those playing today.

      flintoff made a great comment about the guy a few years back.. so very true it was..

      • December 29th 2017 @ 8:59pm
        fp11 said | December 29th 2017 @ 8:59pm | ! Report

        Jackson Bird should not play Test cricket again!

    • Roar Rookie

      December 29th 2017 @ 6:56am
      El Loco said | December 29th 2017 @ 6:56am | ! Report

      Preventing a 5-0 result will be a blessing. It’s been a convincing series win by a good home side but there is still a patchiness to our lineup that would devalue the currency of the whitewash. A big second innings from Khawaja would make things rosier, but whatever eventuates the well deserved celebrations should be kept sensible.

    • Roar Rookie

      December 29th 2017 @ 7:11am
      DJ DJ said | December 29th 2017 @ 7:11am | ! Report

      Cook does appear a thoroughly good bloke. I especially liked his humble celebration upon reaching 200. Let it be an example.

    • December 29th 2017 @ 7:22am
      Richard Islip said | December 29th 2017 @ 7:22am | ! Report

      No matter what anyone says, it is a DEAD rubber. Australia won three tests at a canter.
      On and off the field.
      So now the Poms come out of hiding, on a flat wicket, and indeed an Aussie attack minus Starc.
      And true to form, the Pommie media write it all up, like they have just won the Ashes.
      Just like the Pommie rugby. They come within a point or two of the All Blacks now and then, and suddenly the Poms have been the top team for decades.

      • December 29th 2017 @ 7:28am
        riddler said | December 29th 2017 @ 7:28am | ! Report

        they are not writing it up…

        if anything the opposite..

        starc is out.. stokes is out.. that mery go round goes on and on..

        us aussies need to become better winners and better losers..

        give credit where it is due.. cook played a superb innings.. he has been on the field for the entire test match so far no?

        top ten run scorers in the history not an opener among them except cook..

        enjoy watching something special rather than trying to bring it unfairly down..

        we need challenges to get better.. and we now certainly have a challenge not to win this game but to try and save it..

        in our own backyard!!

        • December 29th 2017 @ 9:20am
          Nudge said | December 29th 2017 @ 9:20am | ! Report

          “Something special”? I don’t think so. Unfortunately for Cook he let his team down in the first 3 tests when the series was on the line. I bet he’d swap this 250 odd for 2 scores of 50 in the first 3 tests. He’d probably swap it for one, 50. Don’t get me wrong, fantastic knock but the horse had already bolted.

          • Roar Pro

            December 30th 2017 @ 6:31pm
            Alexander Clough said | December 30th 2017 @ 6:31pm | ! Report

            He does, he said so himself that he’s disappointed he couldn’t have performed like this when the series was on the line. Doesn’t mean it wasn’t a terrific innings.

        • Roar Guru

          December 29th 2017 @ 10:57am
          Cadfael said | December 29th 2017 @ 10:57am | ! Report

          Stokes has no one to blame but himself. It is ridiculous this “if only Stokes was there”. Starc is out because he was injured not because he got involved in a brawl.

          I haven’t read of anyone belittling Cook’s innings, it was a memorable and a great innings. He deserves all the plaudits going his way.

          On Starc’s replaceement, Bird didn’t bowl too badly but when Starc was ruled out the replacement should have a like not a medium pace trundler especially since we had Marsh there to bowl.

          • December 30th 2017 @ 4:07am
            ColinP said | December 30th 2017 @ 4:07am | ! Report

            Except nudge in the comment directly above yours

      • December 29th 2017 @ 7:36am
        664 the neighbour of the beast said | December 29th 2017 @ 7:36am | ! Report

        Wow…that’s one massive chip on your shoulder there mate…I don’t see anyone gloating! It’s been quite tame in my opinion the whole series…I would loved to have won 5-0 but in this test match we have been 2nd best up to this point in my opinion…we can still draw but I think your post says more about you than anyone else…

        • December 29th 2017 @ 9:42am
          paul said | December 29th 2017 @ 9:42am | ! Report

          maybe the form of words wan’t the best but Nudge was right. For weeks leading up to the start of the series, everyone was saying how much responsibility rested on Cook and Root’s shoulders if the English side was going to be competitive in the Ashes series. Both failed to fire and as Nudge correctly points out, both would give anything for a decent score in the first 3 Tests.

          Cook has done well, no argument, but he’d be the first to admit this is a case of “too little, too late”.

          • December 29th 2017 @ 2:30pm
            Granter said | December 29th 2017 @ 2:30pm | ! Report

            I could be wrong but I thought 664 was replying to Riddler not Nudge?

      • December 29th 2017 @ 1:02pm
        Kavvy said | December 29th 2017 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

        Can you reference some of the “Pommie Media” articles talking it all up? I haven’t come across any. Genuinely may have missed them (read a few different UK news sites, but maybe not the ones you’re reading by the sound of it).

        Genuinely interested.

    • December 29th 2017 @ 7:26am
      Onside said | December 29th 2017 @ 7:26am | ! Report

      Australia need a second spinner if brutal pace fails. Australia has a brutal pace farm ,but
      the breed is incapable of either bowling without sustaining injury ,or playing every match.

      But outside of the resolute Lyon, where are Australia’s spin bowlers .Where’s the support..

      • December 29th 2017 @ 7:30am
        riddler said | December 29th 2017 @ 7:30am | ! Report

        outside of our 4 pace bowlers.. we do not have a farm..

        we have been very lucky to get 3 of the 4 on the pitch for 3 tests in a row..

        if bird is our next in line then we have problems..

        • Roar Guru

          December 29th 2017 @ 8:43am
          Ryan H said | December 29th 2017 @ 8:43am | ! Report

          I believe that based on test performances and current first-class form, Bird should be the first replacement in line. The trouble is, he isn’t really an ideal replacement for Starc, and so the bowling attack has lacked some variety in this match.

          • December 29th 2017 @ 9:21am
            Bakkies said | December 29th 2017 @ 9:21am | ! Report

            Problem with Bird again was no Shield matches during the test season so he hasn’t bowled in a match for close to three weeks. Outside of Starc he was one of the form bowlers in the early Shield rounds.

    • Roar Guru

      December 29th 2017 @ 7:40am
      Dutski said | December 29th 2017 @ 7:40am | ! Report

      Thanks Ronan. What do you think about the option to replace an intimidator like Starc with a line and length bowler like Bird? To me that’s the thing that unsettled the attack. I always saw Bird as the backup for Hazlewood. But the Pattinson injured who is next in the tearaways or intimidators? No names are really leaping out. If Cummins goes down too we would really be without an enforcer. Who else is there?

      • December 29th 2017 @ 9:15am
        Bee bee said | December 29th 2017 @ 9:15am | ! Report

        We rely on brute force and pace far too much. When we face England next series this won’t be as effective on slower greener pitches. Time to evolve a plan B. There are other ways to eradicate bunny’s.

        • December 29th 2017 @ 9:26am
          Bakkies said | December 29th 2017 @ 9:26am | ! Report

          Behrendorff who regularly breaks down when the test squad is selected. Others are playing in the Base Ball League which is useless to preparing bowlers to bowl 30 overs plus in a test match.

          What’s Sayers doing now if he isn’t playing Baseball? Scratching his dáte while waiting for club games on a weekend?

      • December 29th 2017 @ 5:32pm
        John Erichsen said | December 29th 2017 @ 5:32pm | ! Report

        The loss of pace from the injured Starc to Bird was matched only by the lack of variety. Another right arm quick offered us very little that wasn’t already there. Perhaps a left arm quick would be better to replace Starc. Do we have any that aren’t injured? Could always recall Doug Bollinger as a fill in. He would die trying to have an impact for this team.

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