Starc's reminder of pink-ball potency |

Starc's reminder of pink-ball potency

29 October 2017

Australia spearhead delivers timely warning to Ashes rivals with a career-best eight-wicket haul

If on-board wi-fi was among the luxuries available to England's Ashes squad as they winged their way to Australia overnight, they might have found a few moments of inner peace before they settled down to slumber.

Having spent months reading fevered previews forewarning of Australia's plans to unleash a fast-bowling barrage during the coming months, Joe Root's men would have viewed a few hours of score updates from Adelaide Oval on Saturday evening with mild contentment if not pangs of relief.

Starc snares three in superb spell

After all, if an unheralded pair of South Australian openers can defy a New South Wales attack that will double as a majority of Australia's Test bowling line-up a month from now, then there could be hope after all for the tourists' top-order.

Especially when that Redbacks duo of Jake Weatherald (in his 16th first-class appearance) and John Dalton (his third) endured against the best that Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon could summon for more than 50 overs.

At the very times when the pink ball is known to be at peak effectiveness – in its pristine, shiny state and then when dusk arrives and it misbehaves, as if by incantation, under the artificial light.

SA's newly formed opening pair fashioned a partnership of 137, the highest first-wicket partnership in a day-night first-class fixture at the Adelaide Oval – including the Test matches staged at the venue in 2015 and last year – since the lacquered pink ball was introduced several seasons ago.

Day two highlights: SA v NSW

But as can happen even in the most plush accommodation capsules of first-class air travel, SA's previously smooth progress struck sudden turbulence seemingly out of nowhere and they were plunged into a steep descent from which they appeared powerless to arrest.

And while the dramatic change in the course of the Shield game engineered by Lyon and then ruthlessly exploited by Starc is unlikely to have left any tangible impact on England's mid-air touring party, landing in Perth on Sunday afternoon to news that Starc had claimed a new career-best first-class haul of seven wickets might give a moment's pause.

How the Australian pace spearhead had flipped the game late in the evening, then burst it wide open with a searing spell of wicket-taking on the third morning, provded a graphic reminder of how unpredictable pink ball fixtures can be.

Something the Australians have gleaned from repeated recent experience, but of which England's players have been granted limited exposure.

Ball was surprisingly failing to dominate bat until 9pm loomed and Lyon, who had extracted noticeable turn from the day two pitch but not a commensurate level of threat, got Weatherald to squeeze a bat-pad catch that was clutched by Steve Smith diving forward from slip.

Watch all 10 NSW wickets

To that point, the NSW bowlers had worked diligently to create chances but none of them – most pointedly dropped catches by Smith off Weatherald and by Copeland from Dalton, both in the slips – had been seized.

However, no sooner had Lyon knocked open the door to SA's middle-order than Starc went barrelling right through it with the sort of spell that has become his stock-in-trade over recent years but has proved tough to replicate since his most recent return from a foot injury.

The first strike was innocuous, a full, wide delivery that Dalton looked to slash through point via an ambitiously unnecessary square drive that yielded nothing but an outside edge.

Immediately after that came the delivery of the match to date, a fast, late in-swinging missile that screamed towards, then past, Travis Head's bat before the Test aspirant could quite fathom where it was or seemed to be tracking.

Even players of Head's calibre could only hope to survive that sort of welcome from the first ball they faced under lights, and against one of the pre-eminent fast bowlers in the world.

"As we've seen in both innings at night time, it does move around a fair bit more," SA's own strike weapon Chadd Sayers said tonight in reflecting on his captain's golden duck less in a calamitous half hour before stumps.

"So with Starc bowling 140, 145km/h and swinging it in, you don't want to go out and face that at any time.

"To face that first up, I don't think you could do much different."

Two overs later, Starc repeated the trick against another left-hander, Jake Lehmann, and from eyeing a lead without surrendering a second innings wicket, SA will now enter the third day still five runs in arrears and with a bulk of their specialist batting back in the sheds.

Prior to that match-changing spell that yielded the Blues 4-8 in less than five overs, their trump bowlers had battled to make an impact.

Cummins and Starc had bent their backs to extract whatever life was available from a grassed but sluggish pitch, and numerous times had SA's openers fending deliveries off their ribcages only to have the ball fall short or wide of close-in catchers.

But as Copeland had flagged the previous night, the seam movement that had been prominent on day one had minimised on the second afternoon as the pitch dried and hardened, and the only signs of swing came when Starc found that late-in-the-day reverse to demolish Head.

It underscored the threat that the left-armer will pose come the Ashes, whether with red or pink ball in hand.

And it also highlighted to Sayers, the Shield's most successful bowler over recent seasons but one for whom a Test cap remains frustratingly elusive, why he must continue to cool his heels in the queue in the hope that a vacancy arises through natural attrition.

Even though his innings-high 4-82 in the Blues first dig included the wicket of Test captain Steve Smith (lbw for three) and reinforced his potency against the very best batting line-ups the world's premier domestic competition can assemble.

"I know that I'm obviously behind a few blokes now with Hazlewood, Starc and Cummins all fit so I've just got to be ready to go if there is an injury or something happens," he said at day's end.

"The thing with fast bowling is it's hard on the body, so there is injuries pretty much every season.

"So if I'm performing and staying fit, then you never know what's going to happen.

"The recipe that I've worked with for the past five years has gone quite well, so I couldn't see why I'd change anything."

2017-18 International Fixtures

Magellan Ashes Series

First Test Gabba, November 23-27. Buy tickets

Second Test Adelaide Oval, December 2-6 (Day-Night). Buy tickets

Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Buy tickets

Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Buy tickets

Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Buy tickets

ODI Series v England

First ODI MCG, January 14. Buy tickets

Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Buy tickets

Third ODI SCG, January 21. Buy tickets

Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Buy tickets

Fifth ODI Perth TBC, January 28. Join the ACF

Prime Minister's XI

PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Buy tickets

T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series

First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Buy tickets

Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Buy tickets

Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Buy tickets

Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 14

Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16

Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21

About the Writer


Andrew Ramsey is the senior writer for He previously wrote for the Guardian, The Australian, The Times, The Telegraph, The Hindu and Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack and the author of The Wrong Line.