Pace and sustained pace – Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins are half an attack

The Ashes at the MCG (CC licensed by Drew Douglas via Flickr)

As the pre-Ashes war of words hits a dizzying peak of meaninglessness, it’s worth reflecting on something said long after a previous series had finished.

Reflecting on the team’s modus operandi during The Mitchell Johnson Ashes, Peter Siddle said: “The key stat for us is maidens. The more maidens you bowl, the more pressure builds, and obviously the more back-to-back maidens you can bowl – that plays a massive part. Then they’re looking for that quick single or pushing at one they normally wouldn’t because they want to get off strike.”

As we observed in the linked article, some aspects of a team’s ‘brand of cricket’ will always command more attention, even if other aspects may be equally important.

Same again this time around. Australia are apparently fielding a ‘fearsome’ pace attack that may well blow England away but may also find itself blowing in the red-faced, hands-on-knees, rasping lungs, leaden legs sense.

Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins are ‘strike bowlers,’ which sounds really scary until you remember that it basically just means that they get tired quite quickly. This isn’t always such a problem, but when you only field four bowlers, it certainly can be – and even if some of England’s specialists leave something to be desired, they do still have a long batting line-up.

Will Starc and Cummins still be ‘taking the pitch out of the equation’ in the evening session or will they be bowling at the same pace as England’s fourth seamer by then?

It’s evident that Australia will be looking to Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon to bowl plenty of overs. When it comes to shouldering workload, this is Plan A and they have no Plan B unless Steve Smith’s going to bring his flapping chicken dance bowling action out of semi-retirement. (Here’s hoping.)

England will be aware of this and they will know that their batsmen have three very obvious options.

  1. Preserve wickets and force Starc and Cummins to come back for more and more spells
  2. Hit Nathan Lyon out of the attack and force Starc and Cummins to come back for more and more spells
  3. Get out and lose the Test match

Presumably they’ll be looking to go for one of the first two. We’ve no idea which is the better option, but the decision might shape the first Test.

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13 Appeals

  1. More nonsense, this time from Lyon. Apparently, if he thought England could win he “may as well walk away now”. Doesn’t say much for his competitive spirit.

    All this mindless verbiage increasingly resembles the “Speak Your Brains” section in The Day Today

  2. http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cricket/42056362

    Lyon should just shut up and get on with it.

  3. “Presumably they’ll be looking to go for one of the first two”.

    I hope so, but I’d never presume it where England are concerned!

  4. If you play two strike bowlers, you should probably be playing an extra bowling specialist or two all-rounders (or one all-rounder and a batsman who bowls a bit), not just to avoid beknackerment but also for injury cover. I expect the Aussie bowlers will do well, but the strategy they are playing has a lot of down-side risk if one of them gets gone after or breaks down.

  5. Getting excited about The Ashes now. But so tired. So very tired.

    Why do they have to play it at night?

    • Yup, the Brisbane test is always the toughest one for the working, English spectator.

      Bang slap in the middle of an ultra busy time of year, bang slap in the middle of the night.

      The Aussie schedulers know this. The England team know this.

      We must rise to the challenge, Sam.

      Nurture your inner grump and have an endurance test or three at work for a few days. Your team needs you.

      • I’ve been invited to watch the first two hours of the Test at a drinking den. I just don’t think I have the stamina. On another note, you need a pair of wings to get above the usual pre-Test vitriol: ‘We will end your careers.’

      • Can I be one of the first (probably not) to predict ‘Black Friday’ headlines when England get skittled/concede a gazillion runs/fail to take a wicket/lose a key player on the second day?

    • They play it yesterday afternoon over here. I think it’s jolly nice of them to arrange it so well for people on the west coast of the USA.

  6. In any case, if Cummins lasts more than 2 tests it will be an absolute miracle.

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