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Comment: Pattinson, Hazlewood and Starc – Australia’s dream attack

The Roar logo The Roar 13-12-2015 Ronan O'Connell

Australian fans long have dreamed about the day young quicks Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson and Josh Hazlewood would form the Test attack. The way Pattinson outbowled veteran Peter Siddle in this Test suggests that day is nearing.

Starc and Hazlewood this year have blossomed as a new ball pair and look set to lead the Australian attack for many years to come.

The recent retirements of Australia’s two best bowlers of the past five years, Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris, together with the declining effectiveness of veteran Peter Siddle, has paved the way for Australia’s young quicks to take the reins.

All three were prodigies at domestic level, but it was Pattinson who stole a march on Starc and Hazlewood four years ago. Against a solid New Zealand side, Pattinson stormed to two five-wicket hauls in his first three innings.

Fifteen months later, Pattinson was the one Australian bowler who looked consistently dangerous during the disastrous 4-0 series loss in India. By that stage, at just 22 years of age, the firebrand had become the spearhead of the Australian attack and was the most exciting young bowler in world cricket.

His growing body wasn’t ready for the burden of international cricket, though, and it regularly broke down on him over the following two years. Pattinson barely was sighted on the field in that period.

In his absence, Starc was constantly in and out of the side while Hazlewood plugged away at State level before earning his Test debut last December, four-and-a-half years after he first appeared for Australia as a 19-year-old.

Australian bowler Josh Hazlewood celebrates dismissing West Indies batsman Kraigg Brathwaite (right) for 2 runs on day 2 of the first Test. © AAP Image/Dave Hunt Australian bowler Josh Hazlewood celebrates dismissing West Indies batsman Kraigg Brathwaite (right) for 2 runs on day 2 of the first Test.

Hazlewood swiftly made himself an automatic selection in the team and Starc’s Test career has taken off at the same time. In 2015, Starc has taken 46 wickets at an average of 25 from 11 Tests, finally beginning to fulfill the promise evident since his first international match as a 20-year-old in 2010.

In the just-completed Test series against New Zealand, Starc was easily the best bowler from either side, outshining the highly-rated trio of Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Mitchell Johnson.

His foot injury and planned ankle surgery could not have come at a worse time, just as he had finally begun to master the red ball. But the silver lining it that Starc’s absence has opened the door for the return of Pattinson.

The Victorian has been forced to remodel his action as a result of persistent back problems. He showed in his international comeback in the ODIs against England in September that he remained capable of producing intimidating pace.

In his first match back he pushed the speed gun to 153km/h, before reaching as high as 152km/h in the next game.

In this first Test against the West Indies in Hobart, Pattinson appeared to bowl within himself. This was a wise move considering he was underdone, having played just two first-class matches after a long injury layoff.

The first innings saw Pattinson struggle for rhythm. As a result he could not maintain a consistent line and length and gave up eight boundaries in 15 overs en route to disappointing figures of 0-68.

When captain Steve Smith enforced the follow on, we saw a different Pattinson, one who looked much more like his former commanding self. Admittedly, the West Indies batting again was woeful, but that shouldn’t obscure the quality of Pattinson’s bowling.

In taking 5-27, including four wickets in as many overs with the new ball, he hurried the West Indian batsman while getting some nice shape on his deliveries. His pace was down – an average of 137kmh across the match and a top of 145kmh.

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But, as we saw in the ODIs against England, he still has that express speed and surely will unleash it once he feels his body is comfortable with the rigours of Test cricket. Pattinson’s five-wicket haul was just one small step towards becoming the world-class bowler he looked set to be before injuries besieged him.

It was notable that yesterday he was comfortably more incisive than Peter Siddle has been at any time in his two Tests since replacing Johnson. Siddle’s accuracy and frugality never have been doubted.

The concern is his massive decline in strike power in Tests over the past two years.

The Hobart and Adelaide Tests saw Australia four times bowl their opposition out cheaply.

In those matches Siddle has helped to build pressure, conceding just three runs per over. He often has looked unthreatening though and returned ordinary figures of 4-159.

Yesterday, Siddle’s average speed was just 125kmh – the same velocity at which David Warner bowls his part time medium pacers. At Test level, it is extremely difficult to have penetration at such a pace unless you have a mastery of swing or gain disconcerting bounce. Siddle boasts neither.

In his past seven Tests, stretching back 22 months, Siddle has snared just 16 wickets at an average of 46. Of most concern, his strike rate in that period blew out to 95, double the career strike rates of Pattinson and Hazlewood.

Siddle can still tie up an end but he doesn’t have the tools to make inroads into batting line-ups. It is hard to see how he will stay in Australia’s first choice XI once Starc returns to fitness.

Siddle does, however, shape as a potentially valuable bowler in the upcoming two-Test series in New Zealand. If the Kiwis prepare slow, seaming tracks, which would favour the home pacemen, then Siddle could come into his own.

But most Australian fans will be hoping that, before too long, Starc, Hazlewood and Pattinson finally form the devastating pace trio they have dreamed of.

Early-career Test bowling records

James Pattinson – 56 wickets at an average of 26 after 14 Tests.

Josh Hazlewood – 60 wickets at 23 after 13 Tests.

Stuart Broad – 35 wickets at 39 after 13 Tests.

James Anderson – 41 wickets at 33 after 13 Tests.

Dale Steyn – 51 wickets at 30 after 13 Tests.

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