Six and out for Boland? Australia's fast-bowling log jam for Sydney

Six and out for Boland? Australia’s fast-bowling log jam for Sydney

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Pat Cummins grateful he’s not a selector with some tough decisions to made in Sydney

Last week left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel was left out of the New Zealand Test squad the match after taking all 10 wickets in an innings against India. It is not inconceivable that Scott Boland becomes another name on the list of those left out after a spectacular display with no certainty that he will line up at the SCG despite taking 6 for 7 on debut.
Boland tore through England on the third morning in Melbourne having claimed two wickets in his opening over the evening before. It earned him the Johnny Mullagh medal as Player of the Match in an historic and emotional occasion.
It has added to the fast-bowling riches Australia’s selectors currently have to choose from having had to explore the depth on offer during this Ashes – with outstanding results. Boland, Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser have all featured alongside the ‘big three’ and it is a credit to them (although also a sad indictment of England’s batting) that the absences of Pat Cummins in Adelaide and Josh Hazlewood in the last two Tests has barely been felt.

During the MCG Test, Hazlewood returned to bowling in the nets and was hopeful of being ready for his home-ground fixture in Sydney but there is no need to rush him if any doubts remain over the side strain he picked up in Brisbane.

Richardson suffered some lower left shin pain after his successful return in Adelaide where he claimed five wickets in the second innings with a cautious approach taken over him by being left out in Melbourne. Boland, with his six-wicket haul, may have pushed ahead of Neser in the pecking order although his selection has been termed ‘horses for courses’ due to his fine record at the MCG.

But figures of 6 for 7 become hard to ignore and the Sydney pitch may be another to suit Boland’s wicket-to-wicket lengths. In five first-class matches at the SCG he has 15 wickets at 24.73.

“It’s one of those good days where as captain I can firmly say I’m not a selector because good luck to them,” Cummins said. “The niggle to Jhye presented the opportunity to Scotty but I thought it was a really brave call by the selectors to bring in Scotty for this game and full credit, they’ve made the right call. Jhye will hopefully be available, Josh will hopefully be available, no idea. It’s a luxury at the moment.”

One option available is to potentially rest Mitchell Starc who is the only Australia frontline quick to have played all three matches so far although there will be a reluctance not to have someone in such fine form in the continued push for a whitewash. One factor that may be considered is that the final Test in Hobart will be with the pink ball which is where Starc can be so dangerous.

Starc is the leading wicket-taker in the series with 14 at 19.64. He claimed a wicket with the first ball in Brisbane, took on the senior role in Adelaide and was a central figure in the electric final hour on the second day in Melbourne.

“For me, he’s been just about the player of the series so far. Just fantastic,” Cummins said. “We saw in Adelaide how he lifted and led the attack. Think this summer he was gone to a new level. He’s experienced, but he’s found another gear, with the ball that’s not swinging he’s beating the outside edge consistently.

“He’s been titanic for us. We spoke at the start of the summer how there was external pressure, but zero internal pressure. We know what a superstar he is. He’ll go down as one of the all-time great Aussie bowlers. We’ve got to remember that sometimes. He’s shown his class in all conditions. Feel so lucky to have someone like that in the team.”

The one specialist bowler in the Australia squad yet to feature is uncapped legspinner Mitchell Swepson and while it would appear unlikely he will play in this series Cummins indicated there would be an open mind going into the SCG.

Swepson will likely be needed in Australia’s upcoming overseas assignments next year and has been a regular part of Test squads over the last 18 months without being able to join Nathan Lyon in the XI. The development of Cameron Green’s bowling opens the door for a twin-spin attack but they will be wary of overburdening the allrounder and have seen England’s vulnerability to pace.

“It might be a spinning track and you’ve got Mitchell Swepson bowling beautifully. It’s a luxury at the moment,” Cummins said. “If Swepson debuted and then suddenly he’s off to a subcontinent tour, you’d think that experience would be a good thing for just about everyone.

“Once you play one your next one’s probably going to be a little bit better. But it’s an Ashes series, we’re going to pick the best 11 that we think is going to win that Test match in Sydney.”

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo