Glenn Maxwell at six could help destroy England

Glenn Mitchell Columnist

By Glenn Mitchell, Glenn Mitchell is a Roar Expert

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64 Have your say

    Glenn Maxwell came of age as a Test cricketer at Ranchi. He faced 185 deliveries in compiling 104, his maiden Test century.

    It was an innings built around patience and caution rather than inventiveness and gusto.

    It was a knock that some thought Maxwell was incapable of producing.

    It has all but guaranteed that he will bat at number six in the first Ashes Test at the Gabba in November.

    And that may prove to be a massive plus for Australia.

    While Steve Smith does not seem overly enthused about utilising Maxwell’s spin bowling at present, his inclusion in the side provides an opportunity for Australia to go with a four-prong pace attack for much of the summer.

    And the likely quartet has the potential to be akin to those the West Indies fielded in the 1970s and ‘80s.

    If they are all fit, an attack comprising Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and James Pattinson could prove devastating.

    It would allow Australia to go for the jugular early in the Ashes series with the Gabba, a traditional fortress for Australia, being followed by a day-night Test at Adelaide.

    Both venues will provide the home side with favourable conditions for an all-out pace assault on England’s batsmen.

    Starc (148 wickets at 28.3) is one of the most destructive quicks currently going around.

    While he may at times go for a few runs, he is also a regular wicket-taker, often doing so in a brace over the space of a few deliveries.

    Australia Test player Glenn Maxwell raises his bat

    His ability to tail the ball back into right-handers at speeds approaching 150km/h makes him an ever-present threat.

    The fact that he is a left-hander would add another dimension to the three right-armers.

    Hazlewood is metronomic in his method. Comparisons with a young Glenn McGrath, his childhood hero, are a regular occurrence.

    While he lacks the pace of the other three, it in no way diminishes his effectiveness.

    His 117 wickets at 25.0 have been achieved with an economy rate of 2.8.

    He can bowl sustained, miserly spells. He is forever at the batsman and his ability to nip the ball off the pitch has the slips cordon constantly on their toes.

    Cummins has made a seamless return to first-class ranks.

    After a stunning man-of-the-match winning debut as an 18-year-old against South Africa at Johannesburg in November 2011, a succession of injuries kept him predominantly out of red ball cricket until two weeks ago, when he played his first Sheffield Shield match since March 2011.

    He returned figures of 4/57 and 4/47 against South Australia.

    The plan was to continue to ease him back into first-class ranks in readiness for a Test return next summer.

    After just one Shield match and a series-ending injury to Starc, Cummins was parachuted into Ranchi for the third Test of the Border-Gavaskar series.

    With the series still very much alive, the selectors deemed it an acceptable rest.

    He did not disappoint, sending down 39 overs, picking up 4-106 in India’s marathon first innings.

    He bowled with genuine pace and, on occasions, extracted bounce that the other quicks could not.

    Pattinson, similarly to Cummins, has spent more time on the sidelines than in the middle in recent years.

    He made his Test debut against New Zealand at the Gabba in December 2011, and like Cummins, picked up the man-of-the-match award ahead of being named Player of the Series.

    He was accorded man-of-the-match honours in his third Test when he claimed eight wickets against India at the MCG.

    Subsequent appearances were spasmodic with a series of stress fractures in his back and shin leaving him regularly sidelined.

    To date, he has played 17 Tests, capturing 70 wickets at 26.1. He boasts an impressive strike rate, claiming a wicket every 47 balls.

    He returned to first-class ranks last month after a lengthy lay off.

    In four Sheffield Shield matches he has taken 20 wickets at 16.3, including a stunning 5-7 to bowl Victoria to victory over Queensland last weekend.

    He will be back in action on Sunday, spearheading his state’s quest for the Shield title in the final against South Australia at Alice Springs.

    Aside from his stunning bowling figures since returning to first-class ranks, he has also had scores of 29, 39 and 57.

    He has a Test batting average of 27.7 and a first-class average of 21.7.

    Cummins has also worked diligently on his batting while unable to bowl. He has a first-class average of 26.3 from his ten matches.

    When you factor in Starc’s performance with the bat – a Test average of 24.8 with nine half-centuries – the trio bring more to the side than merely their bowling.

    Hazlewood is also capable of holding up an end.

    Often innings can be defined by the performance of the lower order. With this quartet Australia would bat very deep.

    There would be a massive upside in unleashing the quartet against England next summer.

    Australian bowler Mitchell Starc with the pink ball

    Collectively, they could do some serious psychological damage to England’s batsmen, especially at the Gabba and the Adelaide Oval, where grass is left on the pitch to accommodate the pink ball.

    If needed, Smith could bowl himself or Maxwell to break up the quicks’ spells later in the innings, if required.

    Both are currently under bowled at Test level.

    History does not bode well regarding this pace quartet all staying fit for prolonged periods, but those waiting in the wings could easily slot in, with Jackson Bird, Jason Behrendorff and Chadd Sayers heading the list.

    But if that quartet does stay fit for extended periods they could define this current era of Australian cricket.

    Each has many years of quality Test cricket ahead of them – Starc (27yo), Hazlewood (26), Pattinson (26) and Cummins (23).

    While they all have time on their side, the opposition won’t if they are all unleashed in the one match.

    Brisbane in November would be a fine time to see it.

    Glenn Mitchell
    Glenn Mitchell

    After 21 years as a sports broadcaster with the ABC, since mid-2011 Glenn Mitchell has been freelancing in the electronic and written media. He is an ambassador for mental health in Australia, and tweets from @mitchellglenn.

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    The Crowd Says (64)

    • March 24th 2017 @ 7:30am
      Rob JM said | March 24th 2017 @ 7:30am | ! Report

      On top of our fast bowling stocks we now have a couple of batting alrounders pushing for selection in Ashton turner and Hilton Cartwright both averaging 50+ this season. Turner had a break out year with the bat and took a 6fer in the last match. Cartwright backed up his 50 ave from last season to dominate the 2nd half of the shield comp (at 3)after a relative slow start.

      • March 24th 2017 @ 7:41am
        jamesb said | March 24th 2017 @ 7:41am | ! Report

        Yeah, they both finished strong. It was good to see Turner get a 6fer. He is a better bowler then what the actual stats suggest.

        • March 24th 2017 @ 9:46am
          Jameswm said | March 24th 2017 @ 9:46am | ! Report

          Agreed. His T20 bowling stats are very good. I watched him bowl a bit – he’s clearly better thn Maxwell and Head (and Cartwright).

          • March 24th 2017 @ 4:17pm
            AA said | March 24th 2017 @ 4:17pm | ! Report

            Turner is a better bowler than batsmen. It will only be a matter of time before he show’s it.

    • March 24th 2017 @ 8:19am
      Thunder Nation said | March 24th 2017 @ 8:19am | ! Report

      One innings a champion doth not make

      Ashton Turner to be overlooked for the Ashes squad, sadly.
      Same deal with Cartwright

      Mitch Marsh to be drafted into the 1st Test squad

      • March 24th 2017 @ 10:53pm
        Don Freo said | March 24th 2017 @ 10:53pm | ! Report

        Marsh will not be in contention. Try following some cricket, Thunder Nation.

    • March 24th 2017 @ 8:51am
      rock said | March 24th 2017 @ 8:51am | ! Report

      If you want to play the 4 pace men in Aus, is an all-rounder really, really required?

      Starc, Pattinson & Cummins are all good with the blade in home conditions and boast pretty good first class averages – if you’ve got those 3 in the line-up I would even consider not playing an all-rounder.

      • March 24th 2017 @ 9:47am
        Jameswm said | March 24th 2017 @ 9:47am | ! Report

        You play the all rounder as the 5th bowler, not for batting cover. You’ve got it the wrong way around.

        • March 24th 2017 @ 9:55am
          rock said | March 24th 2017 @ 9:55am | ! Report

          So doesn’t that kind of strengthen my point then?

          Then why wouldn’t we consider an option to play 5 top line bowlers, the 4 quicks & 1 spinner – especially as 3 of the paceman are very handy with the blade.

    • Roar Guru

      March 24th 2017 @ 9:01am
      Chris Kettlewell said | March 24th 2017 @ 9:01am | ! Report

      While I also like the idea of seeing this pace quartet together, with Behrendorf a more than able backup, it’s hard to see the Aussie selectors dropping the spinner for the Gabba test. It’s not unusual for spinners to be reasonable effective there, probably as much as anything because it’s a good place for quicks to bowl, to batsmen target the spinner, but the extra bounce can be useful for the spinner too, especially if they get good drop on the ball, and going after them can be risky and bring wickets.

      Really, to make that a viable option, you need that #6 batsman to be a spinner that the captain is comfortable throwing the ball to a lot, who can legitimately take the spot of being a genuine test spinner. Maxwell has showed at times that his spin can be effective, but he just doesn’t bowl enough. People talk about Smith’s reluctance to bowl him, but he barely bowls in domestic cricket either. I remember thinking continually during the BBL how Maxwell was a player who would play for Australia and generally be considered someone to bowl a number of overs, but in the BBL he barely bowled. And it’s the same in Shield cricket. It’s a bit like Henriques, someone considered a genuine allrounder, but regularly NSW selects 5 genuine bowlers and as the 6th bowler he tends to only bowl himself really sparingly.

      • March 24th 2017 @ 9:18am
        Rob JM said | March 24th 2017 @ 9:18am | ! Report

        Part of the reason maxie tried to transfer to nsw was so he would have more opportunity to bowl. Ashton turner needs to leave WA for the same reason. If he can back up with the bat next season he would be the perfect complement to a fast bowling quartet. Another option is Agar at 7 but we really need a better keeper batsmen.

        • Roar Guru

          March 24th 2017 @ 3:48pm
          Chris Kettlewell said | March 24th 2017 @ 3:48pm | ! Report

          I get that, but I don’t know that going to NSW would necessarily achieve that either. As mentioned, NSW so often seem to play the extra bowler meaning Henriques isn’t needed much with the ball either. So I don’t know that it would necessarily be the right destination for Maxwell.

          It will be interesting to see if he tries to pursue a state change during this off season, since it seems a bit like he’d just left it too late last year, and it doesn’t look like any of the issues that caused him to want to move states have gone.

          The difference might be, if he manages to back up and score runs in this test and pretty much secure himself the #6 spot for the Ashes, the state cricket might not matter so much as he’d play less state cricket, and when he did he’d be a returning test cricketer, which would have to push him up the pecking order a bit.

          • March 24th 2017 @ 6:19pm
            Rob JM said | March 24th 2017 @ 6:19pm | ! Report

            Wade has gone to tas, which may mean he stays.

      • March 24th 2017 @ 10:21am
        13th man said | March 24th 2017 @ 10:21am | ! Report

        Then Ashton Turner is probably the best shout at 6.
        He is certainly capable of batting at 6 and is a better spinner than Maxi.
        Though I rate Maxwell’s bowling more than Smith does.

      • March 24th 2017 @ 11:52am
        Geoff from Bruce Stadium said | March 24th 2017 @ 11:52am | ! Report

        I like Glenn’s enthusiasm for Australia’s pace bowling stocks but you need to have a world class spinner available to provide variety and to cash in on conditions if any spin is available in the pitch – particularly on the 4th and 5th days. While Maxwell provides an option for a few overs of spin does anyone seriously consider that he will bowl 30 or 40 overs in an innings? Can anyone see him running through a side like Lyon and O’Keefe have done in this series? I wouldn’t have thought so. It is very rare for Australia to not have a spiner in the side. When was the last time it happened? I’m struggling to remember. The West Indies had a 4 pronged pace attack back in their era of dominace in the late 70s, 80s and early 90s but is has been rarely used since.

        • March 24th 2017 @ 2:51pm
          Jeffrey Dun said | March 24th 2017 @ 2:51pm | ! Report

          “When was the last time it happened?”

          I don’t know when it happened last, but one occasion stands out clearly in my mind. The WACA test in 1989, in which Australia played 4 fast bowlers and no specialist spinners. The pitch turned out to be a road and Mark Greatbatch batted for 2 days to draw the match. The lack of variety in the attack was clear for all to see.

          This obsession with four fast bowlers amazes me. It unbalances the attack. If your 3 best quicks can’t get the wickets, then I don’t the expect the 4th best to make a difference, especially if the conditions don’t suit the fast bowlers.

          For example, even the great Windies teams of the 1980s were beaten a few times at the SCG, which was taking spin, and they were without a specialist spinner.

          • Roar Guru

            March 24th 2017 @ 3:51pm
            Chris Kettlewell said | March 24th 2017 @ 3:51pm | ! Report

            The Windies often had one of their top 6 batsmen who was a decent spin bowler too, guys like Viv Richards, Roger Harper, were reasonably effective spinners that allowed them to have the four quicks. Maxwell could potential be that sort of player.

            Before Warne came along it wasn’t unusual to go to four quicks in real pace friendly conditions like the WACA. They’d often pick that fourth bowler based on conditions. But Warne became such a fixture that they played him everywhere and that mentality has stuck ever since, that the thought of not playing a specialist spinner now seems a weird one. But from memory I don’t think it necessarily was in the pre-Warne days. You usually would have a spinner, but at places like the Gabba and WACA it wasn’t unusual to not have one.

    • March 24th 2017 @ 9:12am
      BurgyGreen said | March 24th 2017 @ 9:12am | ! Report

      This would be a dream scenario for me Glenn. Pattinson, Starc, Cummins and Hazlewood tearing into an English lineup on a bouncy Gabba deck would be a thing of beauty.

      Unfortunately I think the selectors will be reluctant to go without a specialist spinner and will also take any excuse to leave out Maxwell. It seems ridiculous that a guy who made a ton two Tests ago could be dropped so easily, but I get the sense that Maxwell needs to make runs in the fourth Test too.

      • March 24th 2017 @ 9:21am
        Rob JM said | March 24th 2017 @ 9:21am | ! Report

        There is plans for a rescheduled Bangladesh series prior to the ashes which would give maxie more chance to prove him himself.

    • Roar Guru

      March 24th 2017 @ 10:05am
      JamesH said | March 24th 2017 @ 10:05am | ! Report

      Smith’s (and Wade’s) reluctance to bowl Maxwell baffles me. Surely he could at least bowl darts from around the wicket to tie up an end? Can anyone see him going for more than 3 an over if he adopted that strategy and Smith ringed up the field? For a part timer Maxwell has reasonable control, even if he doesn’t turn the ball much.

      Having said that, if we go with O’Keefe, Hazlewood, Cummins and Bird in this test then we should have enough control that Smith can use himself as a partnership breaker. It won’t matter if he goes for a few runs because he has other options to keep the scoring down.

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