Australia struggled last summer as they had a tiring bowling attack unable to conjure magic at the Gabba. The bowlers had a long series and bowled loads of overs, and Australia went with an unchanged attack for each Test. By the end of the series, Lyon’s effectiveness and Starc’s form were in question. Both lost their bite, and Starc is currently under constant scrutiny.
While Australia only used three pacers, and Cameron Green through the India series, they seemed to have learned from their mistake, as they are doing a fair job in rotating their bowlers. In the ongoing Ashes, Australia has used six pacers, while Cameron Green is also bowling more than he did last year against India. The increase in pacers indicates the manner in which Australia are beginning to increase their pace-bowling depth.
Josh Hazlewood was the first pacer to be replaced. He bowled well at the Gabba, but a side strain ruled him out of the next two Tests, and Hazlewood is set to miss the Sydney Test as well. The Australian Captain Pat Cummins missed the Adelaide Test as well, leaving Australia short of their two best pacers. Considered close contact, Cummins sat out but was hardly missed in Adelaide. Both bowlers were replaced by Michael Neser and Jhye Richardson. Pat Cummins though, returned handsomely in Melbourne and took little time to remind the world why he is the number one pacer.
With Hazlewood and Cummins out, Starc took the role of the leader of the attack at Adelaide. His form has been in question for over a year, but in the current Ashes, Starc’s form seems to have got better. He took key wickets in Adelaide, and bowled some nice bouncers. So far, Starc is the only frontline pacer to have played in all three Tests, and if fitness permits, Starc could be set to play the next two as well.
Going past the frontline bowlers, Australia handed debuts to Michael Neser and Scott Boland while Jhye Richardson made a comeback. All three bowlers have made significant impacts in the minimal time they got in the series. Richardson took five in the second innings at Adelaide while Neser took some key wickets in the same Test. Both bowlers have been with the squad for a long time and were finally presented with chances to help display the unnoticed depth in the Australian pace attack.
The surprise debutant of the series though has been Scott Boland. At 32 years of age, Boland made his Test debut in Melbourne and completely blew away the English batting line-up. He came up with a spectacular spell on the second evening and third morning. He took six wickets in the second innings to send England to an innings defeat and sealed the man-of-the-match award.
Another bonus for Australia this series has been Cameron Green. Last summer Green didn’t pick up a single wicket despite bowling some good spells. This time around, he looks a good bowler, using his height well and generating some nice pace. He’s picked up some key wickets and is displaying some fresh skills with his accuracy, pace, and seam movement. Green’s display of bowling has made it easier for Pat Cummins to rotate his bowlers, and ensure neither of them is overused.
With Green, Australia now has the security to be careful with how they handle their quicks. They can rotate the bowlers to prevent soreness and also play according to conditions as each bowler has a decent variety in skill sets. While Australia has some strong batting line-ups to face in the coming months and a string of games away from home, their pace bowling depth will give them some confidence. They are no longer reliant on their big three, and with Swepson doing well, the spin bowling department is also looking better.