‘Ready to go’: Starc, Richardson gunning for Ashes selection
Mitchell Starc and Jhye Richardson are set to go head-to-head in what shapes as an Ashes audition in this week’s intra-squad match, as the host nation turns to a similar build up to the one which had India dubbed the “Adelaide 36ers”.
New Test skipper Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood are certainties to line up against England at the Gabba on Wednesday week but Richardson’s strong early season form and Starc’s lack of red-ball cricket are a point of debate heading into the pivotal warm-up clash featuring the Test squad and Australia A players in the Brisbane bayside suburb of Redlands.
The Australian quicks, among a group of about 20 players in quarantine on the Gold Coast, had a demanding centre-wicket training session on Saturday, with Cummins declaring their fitness was strong.
Jhye Richardson bowls during day one of the Sheffield Shield match between Queensland and Western Australia.Credit:Getty
“We were able to simulate match intensity pretty well. We had a big bowl, us bowlers, two big spells, so if the Test match was in the next couple of days, we would be ready to go,” he said.
“We had a similar lead in to Adelaide last year, us quick bowlers, where we just had centre wickets out in the middle for a week leading in, and we felt great for the first Test [against India].”
Australia stormed to an eight-wicket win in that pink-ball Test, having shocked the cricketing world by rolling the tourists for 36 in their second innings behind nine combined second-innings wickets from Cummins and Hazlewood. The tourists were cheekily dubbed the “Adelaide 36ers” – after the local National Basketball League team – in response.
Batting star Marnus Labuschagne and former Test opener Joe Burns were effusive in their praise of Richardson when discussing his recent bowling at the Gabba with selection chairman George Bailey. He finished with match figures of 8-61 and is the second-leading wicket-taker in the Sheffield Shield this season, with 23 wickets at only 13.43.
His skidding swing on what could be a juicy Gabba deck has state officials tipping he could topple England’s top order.
Starc, however, is still seen as favourite to open the series for he brings bounce, pace and variety with his left-arm attack, but the selectors have indicated the quicks will be rotated this summer, having erred in not doing so against India last summer.
One theory is that Starc, the pink-ball king, could miss Brisbane and be kept fresh for the second Test in Adelaide under lights. Cummins has declared he will not be rested this summer, and Hazlewood’s metronomic line means he is pivotal in building pressure.
Mitchell Starc sends down a delivery.Credit:AP
Richardson has not played since his two against Sri Lanka in 2019 when he claimed six wickets alongside Cummins and Starc. A serious shoulder injury from a fielding accident in the United Arab Emirates in March 2019 derailed his career, but Richardson is now back to his best.
Starc has been among a host of Twenty20 World Cup-winning stars in quarantine who have missed the start of the domestic summer, but these players will be free to leave on Tuesday when all Test and Australia A squad players gather in Brisbane.
While they have been able to train with the red ball, a lack of official game play is seen as a slight concern, although the likes of David Warner, Steve Smith, Hazlewood, Cummins and Starc are all veterans. In Warner’s case, he has often been at his best with limited preparation.
Cricket Australia said on Saturday that specific details of the three-day warm-up clash had yet to be confirmed. Rain is predicted on day one, but the forecast suggests play should not be an issue on Thursday and Friday.
“El Nino has been here. It hasn’t stopped raining really. Today was a really good hit out,” Cummins said.
There will also be much intrigue in the warm-up clash on which side wicketkeeping aspirants Alex Carey and the English-born Josh Inglis take. If selectors do not name Tim Paine’s replacement before the hit out, cricket insiders on Saturday were wondering whether the likely Test inclusion would line up in Cummins’ team.
There could also be a nod towards Ashes selection for Inglis or Carey if either has Warner by his side at first slip, for Warner returned to the key catching position last summer after Burns was dropped midway through the series against India. A strong understanding between gloveman and first slip is important.
Inglis, 26, was born in Leeds and moved to Australia at the age of 14. The West Australian averages 34.03 in 45 first class matches with three centuries, but last summer averaged 73.12 in the Shield.
South Australian insiders rave about how meticulous Carey has been in his preparation, and that differs from white-ball to red-ball cricket. At 30, he is almost in the prime of his career, and has declared he is ready for the ultimate test.
He averages 34.73 in 45 first class matches with five tons – he averaged 59.8 last summer in the Sheffield Shield. He is also a former joint vice-captain of the one-day international side.
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