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Five-star Starc a step above in Sri Lanka

AAP logoAAP 17/08/2016 Will Knight

Expecting your fast bowlers to get some life out of the parched Sri Lankan pitches is like anticipating Sam Groth to win a French Open title on the claycourts of Paris with just a booming serve.

Yet, Mitchell Starc has extracted plenty out of the docile wickets and will be one of the few Australians to have enhanced their reputations during the horror three-Test tour.

After missing the past six Tests since the end of November due to ankle and foot issues, the left-armer returned to spearhead the attack in Sri Lanka.

And didn't Steve Smith need him!

The tourists' most-obvious frailty was their batsmen's inability to handle the home side's three-pronged spin attack.

But, as much as Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera and Lakshan Sandakan thrived, Australia's spinners Nathan Lyon and Jon Holland struggled to make inroads.

Australia knew the fate of their tour and their No.1 Test ranking lay with spin - how they played it and how they delivered it.

They hired no less than Sri Lankan spinning great Muttiah Muralitharan to get the best out of their spinners.

It's the sub-continent after all, where grass on pitches is about as welcome as (former umpire) Darrell Hair in Muralitharan's home town of Kandy.

So few thought Starc would have as big an impact as he did.

He kept Australia afloat in each Test.

He showed brilliant skill in swinging the new ball and reverse swinging the old ball, as well as great stamina and persistence under the hot Sri Lankan sun and in often draining humidity.

His series tally is a remarkable 24 wickets at an average of 15.16.

On the subcontinent, his return has been bettered by only one Australian quick in a Test series.

Fellow left-armer Alan Davidson bagged 29 wickets against India in 1959-60, but that was in a five-Test series, and Geoff Dymock's haul of 24 against India in 1979 was also tallied in five matches.

Starc also broke Dennis Lillee's 37-year-old record of most wickets by an Australian paceman in a three-Test series after the right-armer bagged 23 against England in 1979-80.

Starc took his 100th Test wicket in Galle on the way to best match figures of 11-94.

Australian coach Darren Lehmann last month backed Starc to join the 300 Test wicket club.

For now, he's certainly confirmed himself as the leader of Australia's Test attack and could do more damage on the faster and bouncier home tracks this summer against South Africa and Pakistan.

MOST WICKETS BY AN AUSTRALIAN PACEMAN IN A SERIES IN ASIA:

* 29 - Alan Davidson v India, 1959, in five matches

* 24 - Mitchell Starc v Sri Lanka, 2016, in three matches

* 24 - Geoff Dymock v India, 1979, in five matches

* 21 - Graham McKenzie v India, 1969, in five matches

* 20 - Jason Gillespie v India, 2004, in four matches

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