ICC Champions Trophy: Australia unlikely to use Mitchell Starc-led pace quartet
Australia boast of four talented pacers at the moment - Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson - but it is unlikely to see all of them in action during ICC Champions Trophy.icc champions trophy 2017 Updated: Jun 02, 2017 12:02 IST
Steve Smith said on Thursday that Australia were unlikely to field all their ‘fearsome foursome’ of fast bowlers in their Champions Trophy opener against New Zealand on Friday.
Injuries have meant the quartet of Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson have rarely all been fit at the same time.
It appears Australia have decided it’s too much of a risk fielding all four in the same team, with John Hastings -- who has plenty of English county experience -- also in the squad.
“I don’t think we’ll end up going with the four big quicks,” Australia captain Smith told reporters at Edgbaston on Thursday.
“We’ve got a couple of options there as all-rounders.
“(Marcus) Stoinis did very well in New Zealand in the last series, and Hastings has done very well for us over in these conditions.
“He’s a little bit slower than the others and hits the seam and has some good skills throughout the middle as well.”
For Cummins, whose career has been blighted by several back stress fractures, just being in contention again is something of a relief.
The 24-year-old made his international debut in 2011, yet the fact he’s played just three Tests and 28 one-day internationals since then is testament to how much time Cummins has spent on the treatment table.
But he now believes his body can withstand the rigours of international cricket.
“I now feel that because I’m a couple of years older, and because I had a full off-season at pretty low intensity, my body was a bit more hardened than it used to be when I did come back,” Cummins explained.
Left-arm fast bowler Starc, arguably the world’s leading ‘yorker’ bowler, has recovered from a foot injury that cut short his tour of India, while Pattinson has returned from shin and back problems.
Australia boast one of the most powerful top orders in ODI cricket, with captain Smith and opener David Warner outstanding batsmen in all formats.
They could add extra firepower by including Chris Lynn, who shot to worldwide prominence earlier this year with a sensational Indian Premier League campaign, averaging nearly 50 for the Kolkata Knight Riders.
New Zealand beat Australia in a thrilling pool match in Auckland at the 2015 World Cup only to lose to their trans-Tasman rivals in the final in Melbourne.
Friday’s encounter at Birmingham’s Edgbaston ground is set to feature several survivors, with New Zealand captain Kane Williamson the star turn in a top order that also includes Martin Guptill.
Blackcaps pacemen Tim Southee and Trent Boult are proven performers in England, but Southee said: “We know the conditions, but you can’t rely on that.”
New Zealand beat Australia 2-0 in a home ODI series earlier this year and Williamson said Thursday: “We have played each other a lot, and we are fairly familiar with each other but teams are always trying to do (things) slightly different.
“For us it’s trying to attack it as best we can. You come into these one-off clashes, they are very different, perhaps just being involved in a series.”
This latest trans-Tasman clash takes place against the backdrop of a bitter pay dispute between Cricket Australia and their players.
“We know that the ACA (Australian Cricketers’ Association) is handling everything back home,” Smith said Thursday.
“For us, our focus is on this tournament, and it needs to be because we’re coming up against some good opposition. It’s a very cut-throat tournament.
“You need to be switched on the whole time.”
It was in Birmingham four years ago where Australia’s campaign at the last Champions Trophy foundered, on and off the field.
An Edgbaston defeat by England in their opening game was followed by Warner punching England batsman Joe Root in a Birmingham bar in the early hours of the next morning -- a clash that saw Australia suspend Warner from the opening two Tests of that year’s Ashes.