England's pace attack led by Jimmy Anderson is formidable but do the Aussies have a few speedster aces up their sleeves as well?
The Australians are well aware of their lack of spin options going into the Ashes series next week. But instead of crying over spilt milk the've compensated by packing their squad full of a diverse range of fast bowlers. With England's pace attack led by swing wizard James Anderson a vital part of their plans, the first Ashes battle could be decided by which bowling attack has the firepower to take ten wickets. With the first Ashes Test just around the corner it's perhaps a good time to put the Aussie speedsters under the microscope.
The (twenty) three (year old Aussie) Musketeers
Had Australia tried to clone Brett Lee they probably wouldn't have been able to do a better job than mother nature in the shape of James Pattinson. Almost identical height, the same athletic build, the same aggressive explosion at the crease and they both 5 wicket hauls on Test debut to boot, I could go on. Brett Lee may have taken 8 more wickets in his first ten test matches but he hadn't toured India like Pattinson and grafted on the slow dead wickets there.
This is Pattinson's first Ashes series and he'll be looking to better Lee's tally of 9 wickets in 5 Tests back in 2001. Providing he stays fit few would bet against him doing just that.
The Australians have been extremely lucky in replacing Mitchell Johnson with someone who's showing the potential to be a much better Test cricketer. Another left arm quick, Starc is taller than Johnson, bowls just as fast and is also threatening with the bat. He could pose the biggest threat for England should he get the better of England's record breaking captain Alastair Cook. It's just as well for Chef that Test cricket isn't heaving with left arm fast bowlers. because every time he's come across them its been tough going. There's not much reason for england fans to sound the alarm just yet. However, the fact is he's also been dismissed no less than 20 times in his career at the hands of lefties, with Boult being his latest tormentor in the series against the Kiwis. The fact he struggled against Johnson in the 2009 Ashes series also means Starc will be a key bowler for the Aussies in the coming months.
For those who remain on a T20 cricket/IPL hunger strike in the name of Test cricket, the rise of James Faulkner could well prove to be the red pill that's force fed, like detainees at Guantanamo. Faulkner lit up IPL 2013 and surprised everyone with his bowling displays, outshining established IPL stars such as Dale Styen, Lasith Malinga, Sunil Narine, and Ravi Ashwin. He took 9 more wickets than Steyn at a better average and whilst none of the mentioned players managed a 5 wicket haul, Faulkner did it twice. The accuracy with which he bowled in difficult conditions for fast bowlers has probably done him no harm when it comes to the rigors of playing Test cricket all over the world. He may be in the squad as back up, but should he get a chance the conditions in England will probably suit him just fine.
Two Veterans and a young Bird
It's perhaps the young nature of the Australian pace attack that Siddle is considered a veteran aged just 28. The only survivor in the Aussie pace attack from the 2009 series defeat, the "vicious" Victorian will be out for revenge this time around. Whilst England's James Anderson is regarded highly in Test cricket by most, Siddle is raked higher in ICC test rankings. Meaning his overall performances around the world have been better. However the Ashes will be the ultimate test of his abilities. The warm up games have been a sedate affair for Siddle so far. Australian cricket fans will be hoping he's like a dormant cricketing volcano, who'll erupt with wickets just in time for the first Ashes test.
If ever there was an Australian Glen Chapple, Harris would be it. Unlike Chapple however Harris' national selectors did eventually see the light and recognize the talent he undoubtedly had as a fast bowler. Just like Chapple Harris also continues to defy the odds and returning injury after injury. He may not make the 1st XI at Trent Bridge but he is injury free now and a dangerous bowler.
If Pattinson is Bret Lee reborn then wishful thinking Australian fans will be citing Jackson Bird as the new Glenn McGrath. Tall, accurate and just sharp enough to prevent any batsman from getting too comfortable, Bird has had a much better start to his Test career than McGrath. After only 2 test matches he already has 11 victims compared to McGrath's 6 wickets in his first couple. There are a lot of Aussie punters who are very excited about this young fast bowler and he's likely to get a chance to prove them right in the first Test.
Who will be the Australian man with the golden gun?
Mitchell Starc. His pace and bounce combined with the possibility he could remove Cook early means Starc could well be the man to watch in the first Test.
Agree or Disagree? Which one of the Aussie speedsters do YOU think will take the most scalps at Trent Bridge?
Comment below and let us know or alternatively why not tweet us @hitccricket
Rana Malook is a sports writer for HITC and tweets here