20/05/2024

The Aussie pace trio may be elite, but their fellow peers may be the reason behind their historical feats (Photo - Cricket Australia).

Australia has had everything go right for them in the Ashes series so far, but one key factor has them above even their more recent Aussie counterparts.

It’s difficult to pick a weakness for Australia in their latest Ashes series win, as there have been plenty of positives in their 3-0 romp with two games to play in Sydney and Hobart.

But there is one factor that Australia has over their English counterparts that have been critical to their success; their bowling depth.

While England has struggled to raffle between the likes of veterans James Anderson and Stuart Broad as well as Ollie Robinson and Mark Wood, Australia has found an abundance of swingers and seamers who have wreaked havoc at Test level. Finally getting a proper look at their much-vaunted fast bowling depth in action.

Three of Australia’s four frontline bowlers sit in the top ten ICC test bowling rankings. Captain Pat Cummins (first), Josh Hazlewood (fifth), and Mitchell Starc (ninth), while spin king Nathan Lyon is at 18th. Already this speaks to a valuable and versatile bowling attack that can take apart even the best batting line-ups, but their depth has been more evident this summer.

The big three, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc, and Pat Cummins have been at the forefront of Australia’s Test bowling attack. Image: cricket.com.au

Revered globally, Australia’s bowling cartel endured a tough hit when India took them apart last summer to claim an incredible series victory. But where Australia’s bowling has improved is in their depth, as a raft of new names now supports the ‘big three’ and main spinner Nathan Lyon in creating a variable attack that can perform in any conditions.

It started in Adelaide, where Josh Hazlewood’s injury and Pat Cummins’ COVID-withdrawal led to Michael Neser finally making his debut and Jhye Richardson returning to the team. Both performed with aplomb – Neser took a wicket in his first over and created pressure all game, while Richardson took a five-wicket haul on the final day to deliver Australia victory; something you hardly expect from a bowler playing his first test 18 months removed from his debut with a series of shoulder and injury complications in the middle.

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Richardson and Neser have been around the test level for quite some time now, but have barely had the opportunity behind Australia’s frontline quicks. If Adelaide proved that there are worthy bowlers waiting in the wings. The MCG test proved Australia’s versatility for different conditions.

On a green and bouncy Melbourne deck, the horses for courses selection of hometown hero Scott Boland could’ve gone either way. On the opening day, he bowled well without great reward, only the maiden wicket of Mark Wood came after some relentless pressure.

But in the second innings was where he came into his own – two wickets in a single over late on day two ripped the heart out of England, while final figures of 6-7 off four overs made history and tore apart the visitors. But what it also proved was that Australia has plenty of able pacers who are raring to play a role and perform at test level when called upon.

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Another supporting factor is the emergence of all-rounder Cameron Green’s bowling. In the first innings in Melbourne he was consistently Australia’s fastest bowler, easily surpassing 140km with some searing and economical spells.

While he has built dot ball pressure all series long, he has tightened an end while his fellow pace bowlers can strike up the other. With Nathan Lyon also capable of being frugal and dangerous throughout long spells, Australia has many options to chuck the ball to and work in tandem with to break partnerships.

All of this comes with another great option in James Pattinson’s recent retirement from international cricket. While the loss is sad on to Australia’s international bowling stocks, it hasn’t impacted deeply as once thought with many able to step in a do a job when called upon.

This isn’t just any normal home Ashes win for Australia – in 2017/18, similar to 2013/14’s whitewash, the home side played the same attack consistently. Although it worked superbly in those series, there was no hint at adaptability or points of difference that could come in and perform should an injury or different conditions occur.

Last year against India, the over-reliance on the big three all throughout the series ended up working against them, with the failure to rest and rotate and pick based on conditions – a system that worked so well for them in England where they retained the Ashes in 2019 went untouched.

Yet this series has already proven that Australia, In home conditions, can create a knack and attack to suit any conditions, and have a wide raft of bowling options who are test-level ready and can dine on a day out should they be given an opportunity.

This kind of healthy culture creates plenty of success and rare moments of glory such as what was seen when Boland and Richardson went berserk at the most unexpected of moments. With Cummins still at the helm, this Test bowling cartel could continue expanding and go down in history as one of the very best to ever collectively play for one country.

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