Guess what? The next Ashes series is less than 12 months away! Hurray! Honestly, in this New World Order of International Cricket, we will most likely never again be more than 18 months from an Ashes series (or six days from another pointless ODI series featuring India), so as tired as everyone is of them, there really isn’t much to do but just accept it. Which all means it’s time for another article where we rank Australia’s fast bowling options! Just don’t go and read our last article on this topic from two years ago. The one where we claimed Mitchell Johnson was now irrelevant. Yeah, that one. Don’t read it.
The one hope that England (seemingly) has of putting on a good show (let alone winning) in the next Ashes, is for Australia’s pace attack to be in pieces by the time it all begins. Looking at Australia’s current injury woes, during a period in which they haven’t even played any cricket for bloody ages, that actually doesn’t seem a terribly unlikely prospect. Australia has enough strength in depth to pick two Test quality pace attacks. Right now, though, they could barely cobble one together with sticky tape and ice cream sticks. Who knows what things will be like next year.
Of the three quicks who played in Australia’s last Test against South Africa, only one (Johnson) is currently fit. Ryan Harris has already been ruled out of Australia’s tour of the UAE, and may be fit in time to play by Christmas, while James Pattinson has broken down with another back complaint and there is, as yet, no idea as to when he might return to full fitness. It’s questionable as to whether either will ever play at the same level again, particularly in Harris’ case, but Pattinson’s back complaints have become worryingly frequent of late. So that’s a promising start.
Looking at the immediate back-ups then, we have Peter Siddle, who was dropped for the last Test Australia played, and hardly set County Cricket on fire over the past few months either. But he is fit though, which is a big tick for him, and even though there are suspicions he may be on the wane, he will probably play in the UAE for want of other options. Mitchell Starc is another who is fit (surprisingly), but is desperately lacking red ball practice, and will be kept out of the team by Johnson for the moment anyway. The other quick to play for Australia in recent times, Jackson Bird, seems to be permanently broken these days. But even if he wasn’t, it’s doubtful whether Lehmann would pick him anyway, given his predilection for out and out quicks.
So that currently gives Australia two fit quicks, with Starc on the bench in case Johnson breaks down. For their third candidate they will need to look a little further afield. At Pat Cummins for instance, who is, somehow, all in one piece at the moment. Although relying on him to stay that way is rather like relying on the Israelis to not target Palestinian schools just for shits and giggles. Then there are a bunch of players who are untested at Test level, like Chadd Sayers, Ben Cutting, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jason Behrendorff, Gurinder Sandhu and Josh Hazlewood (also currently broken). Or they could return to old stagers like Doug Bollinger, although we would hope the selectors, like us, continue to refuse to acknowledge the existence of Ben Hilfenhaus.
Which, all in all, doesn’t paint a particularly impressive picture. Unless you are an England supporter. There is undoubtedly a great deal of depth in Australia’s fast bowling ranks, the problem is getting enough of them together at the one time to form an attack out of them. At this stage we would predict the attack in the UAE will comprise of Johnson, Siddle and Cummins, with potentially either Harris or Pattinson (or maybe even both) coming back into the mix for the series against India. Given the current issues, there may even be a temptation to give James Faulkner or Mitchell Marsh a run as part of a three man attack, particularly if Lehmann continues to hold doubts over Siddle’s position.
All told it’s probably not that bad really (at least no way near as bad as the batting stocks), but you’d imagine Australia would jump at the opportunity to use bits of both Pattinson and Cummins to create the one bowler who at least didn’t break down every five minutes. Or for Mitchell Starc to live up to his promise, without the need to endure the years of working as a plumber, comedy haircuts, and bad tattoos, that most left arm quick’s seem to need to go through beforehand. In the meantime, the selectors will be desperately hoping that Mitch Johnson can maintain the rage for a while a yet, and that modern medicine can contrive to keep Ryan Harris out of the funeral home and out on the park for another six months.