Four 150km/h bowlers cutting loose in the Ashes is now a distinct possibility due to the emergence of new England express quick Jofra Archer and the return to fitness and form of the similarly rapid Mark Wood.
Archer, who began his England career last week, has already been endorsed to make his Ashes debut by a host of British pundits as well as by veteran English quick Stuart Broad.
Wood, meanwhile, is an incumbent in the England Test XI and was man of the match in their most recent Test after grabbing 6/93 and pushing the speed gun up to 154km/h.
Broad himself is no certainty to be in England’s starting XI for the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston in August, having been axed during their last Test series in the West Indies.
Wood’s startling effort in England’s last match means he’s likely to play in the first Ashes Test if fit, while Archer has British commentators and fans agog due to his dramatic start for the national side.
Broad this week said he “can’t see a way that Jofra doesn’t play some sort of role in that Ashes series”.
“He has everything you would want in a fast bowler to succeed at the top level,” Broad said.
“I hope he’s in front of The Oval pavilion lifting the Ashes urn come September because he’s a very exciting cricketer.”
Broad also mentioned Wood as another bowler he expected to play a significant role in the Ashes. This raises the prospect of an Ashes pace shootout between four guys who can bowl at 150km/h – Archer and Wood versus Australian pair Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins.
Perhaps never in the 127-year history of the Ashes has a Test involved four bowlers of such pace. It was this kind of speed and intimidation that England sorely lacked in the last Ashes, during which they were flogged 4-0 by Australia.
On some sleepy Australian pitches the home team’s extra pace and bounce gave them a major advantage over England, whose bowling was accurate but lacked venom.
A pairing of Archer and Wood could have been very useful in that series. But in the UK it has been swing, seam and precision, rather than brute force, which have been the key attributes in recent Ashes contests.
In the 2015 Ashes in the UK Australia’s batting line-up was skittled in the three Tests which featured seam-friendly surfaces. They were undone in those matches not by pace but by the swing of James Anderson and the seam movement of Broad, both of whom were operating at fairly gentle speeds in the low-to-mid 130kmh bracket.
Australia, meanwhile, made the mistake in that series of picking bowlers whose main attribute was their pace. Despite the helpful conditions, Starc and fellow express quick Mitchell Johnson combined to average 33 for that series, while also conceding a very high economy rate of 3.8 runs per over.
Their best work was done on the two much flatter pitches on which Australia won Tests in that series. On the three greener pitches neither Aussie was accurate enough to make the most of the conditions, in contrast to the precision of Broad and Anderson.
If they take this into account, England may well only look to use pacy pair Wood and Archer in tandem once a flat pitch emerges in this Ashes. On the moister pitches they may lean towards the likes of Anderson, Broad, Chris Woakes and Sam Curran.
That would be bad news for Australia. In the last Ashes the Australian batsmen, having been harried on the greener pitches, at least got some respite on the two drier pitches, on which England’s gentle-paced quicks lacked penetration.
This time around, however, England appear to have pace weapons suited for any and all conditions.