The Australian bowling line up of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon is at the peak of their skills and arguably the best combination going around in world cricket currently. Pat Cummins has the coveted number one ranking in Test cricket while both Hazlewood and Starc feature in the ICC Men’s Top Ten Test bowlers.
Let’s look at the reasons why many pundits are calling this the most complete Australian bowling line up ever and where they rank amongst their contemporaries?
THE NUMBERS THEORY
If we just look at the numbers objectively from January 1 2019, then there’s a lot to like about this Australian bowling line up. The Australian cricket team has the best win to loss ratio in the world and that has a lot to do with their top bowlers. The ability to pick 20 wickets in any given conditions makes them standout and eventually help the team win Test matches. There’s an argument to be made that the current batting crop is nowhere near the previous generation and that’s predominantly the reason why the team banks upon their bowling line up to get them in winning positions. The entire bowling unit averages 25.94 with the ball which is the second-best in the world behind India since the start of 2019.
In Cummins, Hazlewood and Lyon they have three bowlers who give zero boundary balls to the opposition and the pressure built by these bowlers get them the wickets more often than not. Only Starc would be the one who is hot and cold frequently but is a lethal wicket-taker on his day. They have the second-best economy rate in the world just a whisker behind New Zealand with 2.96 since 2019. They love to build the pressure from both ends and the relentless nature of their bowlers makes them standout.
Now if we were to look at individual numbers of these bowlers then you’d understand why there are so many fanboys going around these players. Since the start of 2019, nobody has taken more five-wicket hauls than Lyon and Starc who rank joint-first in this list with four to their names.
World number one Test bowler, Cummins is the most complete bowler going around in Test cricket right now. His average of 19.65 is the best in the world since 2019 and he has been the second-highest wicket-taker in this given time.
When it comes to strike rates then Mitchell Starc’s impact stands out. He has the second-best bowling strike rate since 2019 just behind Mohammed Shami with 42.00. Cummins also features in the top five list with 44.9.
When it comes to spinners in Test cricket since 2019, there’s no one who even comes close to Lyon’s consistency. Australia’s greatest ever off-spinner has picked up 61 wickets since then and the next best is Ravichandran Ashwin with 35 wickets. That tells you how effective Lyon has been, especially in conditions which aren’t always conducive for spin bowling.
DEPTH IN THE RANKS
The best part of this Australian bowling line up is that the first-choice four bowlers in the squad are more or less injury-free all the time. The Australian management takes good care of these blokes and their workload is managed exceptionally well. In the current Border-Gavaskar series, we’ve seen the Indian cricket team fielding their fourth or fifth choice fast bowlers while the Aussie quicks have been up for it throughout the four Tests.
If there were some unfortunate injuries to take place then the Australian bowling depth will be tested but it will for sure impress most people. James Pattinson, who has just turned 30, still has a role to play in the next couple of years at least. Michael Neser has been in the wings for 18 months and there is the young lad in Jhye Richardson. They have the making of a very special bowling line up of the future.
They are also lucky to have a couple of bowling all-rounders in Sean Abbott and Cameron Green, with the latter making his debut in this Border-Gavaskar trophy. This tells you the competition for places in the current Australian Test team is top-notch.
The spin department would be the only one looking for capable backup bowlers for the Aussies. They have tried Ashton Agar and Steven O’Keefe in the past but the duo has failed to live up to the expectations. Agar is still young but is more effective as a batsman rather than a bowler. Steve O’Keefe is 36 now and the management have to find a younger resource for this role. Mitchell Swepson who made an impressive debut in the T20I series against India is hailed as the next big thing amongst Australian spinners and it’ll be fantastic to see him apply his trade in overseas conditions if given the chance.
BOWLERS FOR ALL CONDITIONS
Australian bowling has been spoilt for choices as well as the variety the attack possesses. You have the left-arm attacking option of Starc, who can go for a few runs but is a wicket-taker and creates indecision with his pace. Hazlewood is a wonderful bowler who bowls at a good pace with pinpoint accuracy. Then there’s Cummins who can fulfil a number of roles. Whether it’s with the new ball, old ball, reverse swing, conventional swing and short ball barrage, Cummins can do it all and with remarkable consistency.
There are many reasons for one to be overjoyed watching this current Australian bowling line up bowl in conditions which suit them but their real test will come when they travel to the subcontinent and bowl on flat and placid tracks in the scorching heat. Till the time Australia doesn’t win a Test series in such conditions, hailing them as the best bowling line up ever would be slightly premature.
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