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Australia land in South Africa with worst-ever pace attack

24th September, 2016
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Steve Smith has been in average form against the white ball. (AFP PHOTO/ MARWAN NAAMANI)
Expert
24th September, 2016
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Australia have arrived in South Africa with their weakest-ever ODI pace line-up. On Tuesday they kick off their tour with a quartet of pace bowlers who are not even among the ten best 50-over quicks in the country.

Ten wickets at an average of 49. That was the combined haul of Joe Mennie, Daniel Worrall and Chris Tremain in last summer’s domestic One Day Cup.

53 wickets at 37. That is the combined career return of Mennie, Worrall and Tremain in 50-over cricket. These are the men who have come into Australia’s ODI squad to replace Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and James Faulkner over the next three weeks.

They will combine with fellow paceman Scott Boland, who has looked way out of his depth so far in his ODI career, averaging 57 after ten matches.

I don’t mean to denigrate this quartet of fresh Australian pacemen. But the reality is none of Worrall, Mennie, Tremain or Boland have demanded ODI selection. In fact I would argue that none of them are even among the top ten 50-over paceman in Australia.

In my estimations they are behind Starc, Hazlewood, Faulkner, John Hastings, Pat Cummins, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jason Behrendorff, Joel Paris, James Pattinson, Sean Abbott and Gurinder Sandhu. That’s 11 better bowlers.

Worrall, Mennie, Tremain and Boland are essentially the last men standing given the glut of injuries to Australian quicks and the resting of Starc and Hazlewood ahead of a busy home summer.

Of the new pacemen, Tremain is easily the best white ball prospect. He is hugely inexperienced though, having played only four domestic one dayers in his career.

The 193-cm right armer from Victoria grabbed the attention of the selectors while playing for Australia A in the recent winter carnival against India A, South Africa A and Australia’s National Performance Squad.

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First he claimed 7-102 in Australia A’s opening four-day match against South Africa A, including a five-wicket haul in the first innings. Then he started the 50-over quadrangular series with consecutive five-fors against India A and the NPS.

He finished that series as comfortably the leading wicket taker from any side, with 13 at an average of 15.

It was an amazing return for a bowler who had just two wickets at 83 in his entire 50-over career prior to that series. Tremain proved effective with both the new and old ball. In the opening ten overs he gained consistent outswing and sharp lift.

In the later overs he showed clever changes of pace, including a James Faulkner-style back-of-the-hand slower ball.

Tremain also has a helpful quirk which sees him always cover the ball with his non-bowling hand as he approaches the crease. Given batsman love to get a good look at the ball in a bowler’s run-up this can only make him more difficult to pick up.

Tremain did not play in last summer’s domestic One-Day Cup. In fact, he couldn’t even squeeze into Victoria’s squad for that tournament, stuck behind the likes of Hastings, Pattinson, Boland, Peter Siddle and Clint McKay.

Tremain, did, however have a breakout season in the Sheffield Shield. The 25-year-old snared 36 wickets at 21, with a blistering strike rate of 38.

He looks more likely than Worrall, Mennie or Boland to have an impact in South Africa, with Australia to play their first match against Ireland on Tuesday, followed by five games against the hosts. Worrall is almost as green as Tremain with the white ball.

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The 25-year-old has played only seven domestic one dayers for South Australia, for a return of seven wickets at 40.

Worrall has a nice yorker, which could be handy in the later overs. Otherwise, the most notable thing about him is his bizarre run up, which sees him start his approach from an extremely wide angle. Worrall and Mennie both seem to have earned selection largely off the back of fine Sheffield Shield campaigns last summer.

That Redbacks pair were the two leading wicket takers in the Shield, Mennie taking 51 wickets at 21, and Worrall collecting 44 at 26. But both of them struggled badly in the domestic one dayers, Mennie averaging 51 and Worrall 47.

So of Australia’s three new ODI pacemen, two are fresh from shocking domestic white ball campaigns and the other couldn’t even make his State’s 50-over squad. That doesn’t exactlyinstilmuch confidence now, does it?