KEN PIESSE admires the work of Mitchell Starc as he opens the gap between the Aussies and the South Africans in the First Test:
WASIM AKRAM the greatest left-arm fast bowler the game has seen, believes Australia’s own Mitchell Starc can take 400 Test wickets if not more.
Starc’s brilliant start in South Africa has highlighted the gulf between the two teams.
Instead of a fierce opening contest, the South Africans have only just forced the game into a fifth day, the high-pace reverse swing from Starc pivotal in Australia’s likely 1-0 series lead.
“When he gets it right, he’s just about impossible to play,” said Pat Cummins of his pace partner.
With five wickets in the first innings and four so far in the second, Starc is fast closing in on 200 career wickets, yet he has played just 41 Tests.
Akram worked briefly with Starc recently and was impressed by his willingness to listen and experiment. He said his extra height is a natural advantage and allows him to gain pace and bounce on even the most benign surfaces.
Even on a Kingsmead wicket which has been uncharacteristically slow, Starc provided the “X” factor to Australia’s attack, the back-ups in Josh Hazlewood and Cummins also important as the Aussies look to take the high ground after just one Test.
It was significant that the only Test Starc has missed in recent times was in Melbourne and the match in a draw. He still took 22 wickets in four Ashes Tests.
Captain Steve Smith has been using him in short four and five-over spells, wanting him to bowl at high speed and make life as uncomfortable as possible for the South Africans. His withering burst late on the fourth day saw him on a hat trick, but denied the opportunity to claim it when the umpires deemed the light was too poor for the quicks to operate. With one wicket remaining Starc could take twin five-fours for the match and still complete the hat-trick.
Starc’s match-winning consistency has overshadowed those of all of Australia’s most celebrated left-arm pace greats, except for Mitchell Johnson.
The disappointing crowds in the first Test was also a talking point. If it wasn’t for the schoolchildren who attended on the opening two days and the Australian tourists, enjoying some autumn “r and r” the Kingsmead stadium would have been all but empty.
Port Elizabeth later in the week may also struggle to attract big crowds. Cape Town later in the month is sure to be the best attended Test, given all its side attractions.
KEN PIESSE has covered cricket and football for more than 30 years in Melbourne. Despite that setback, Ken has written, published and edited 86 books on cricket and AFL football to become Australian sport’s most prolific author.
His latest cricket book is David Warner, The Bull, Daring to be Different with Wilkinson Publishing, out now