Bounce, variety, speed: Australia’s bowlers up there with the greats

I can only speak for the past 50 years, but it is hard to think of an attack that that has been more potent and possessed more variety than was on display last week in Adelaide.

This Australian pace battery is developing into a formidable outfit. It has many hallmarks of the great fast-bowling teams of the past.

Josh Hazlewood, right, and Pat Cummins, left, had a day to remember in Adelaide. Credit:David Mairuz

Starc is undoubtedly the team's "Jaffa" merchant and enforcer. Reminiscent of Mitchell Johnson in his prime, he harasses the top order and menaces the tail. His control of the three lengths, when on song, is unsettling for right- and left-handers.

Nathan Lyon is a class act. On a grassy Adelaide pitch, he extracted bounce and turn on the first day to keep the pressure on when the pace bowlers needed a break; plus, he picked up the prize wicket of the obdurate Cheteshwar Pujara.

The exciting thing from coach Justin Langer’s point of view is that Cameron Green didn’t look out of place on debut. A top-six batsman and a bowler of significant ability, Green will add a dimension that Australian teams have rarely seen since Keith Miller’s exhilarating vignettes with bat and ball in the 40s and 50s.

Any captain would relish having a batsman who doubles up as a fifth bowler and bowls in excess of 140kph in addition to generating steepling bounce off a length.

The other bonus to having his all-round skills, is what it does for the balance of a team. If conditions suit pace, as they did in Adelaide, he becomes valuable to rest the main fast bowlers at strategic times without reducing pressure. If conditions suit spin, one of the quicks can be omitted, to fit another spinner into the line-up, without reducing the pressure that another accurate, fast and bouncy bowler can bring.

Considering how little bowling the quicks have had so far this season, their collective pressure was a credit to them as well as the strength-and-conditioning staff and the bowling coach. Plans were well-conceived and brilliantly executed. One bad spell could have been the difference in such a low-scoring game.

Australia's little-known secret

Despite the inevitable breakdowns that regularly plague fast bowlers, this lot are incredibly fit. They hunt well as a pack, take great pride in their work, support each other and genuinely enjoy each other’s success.

It is one thing to have considerable skill, but if it is not combined with fitness, it will be ineffectual. The ability to come back and bowl a third or even a fourth spell at the fag end of a hot day, on a featherbed, and still be able to hit the splice of the bat is an exceptional attribute.

Australian cricket has another unique weapon that is not recognised: we are good story-tellers and it is through story-telling that culture is passed on from generation to generation. This is particularly so of the bowling group mentored by bowling coach Troy Cooley – “the ball- whisperer” – who has worked in Australia and England with distinction.

Troy began with Rod Marsh at the Cricket Academy in Adelaide in 2000. During that period, and in subsequent high-performance roles at Cricket Australia, Cooley has worked intimately with the legendary D.K. Lillee. Dennis is a great story-teller and is brilliant at distilling and propagating the wisdom of fast bowling internationally. Troy has been a most diligent acolyte. While Cooley is around, the Lillee influence on Australian fast bowling will endure.

Langer maintains close links with past champions such as Ponting and Steve Waugh, so the batting lore is also retained.

I don’t think any country accumulates, disseminates and exploits historical information across generations as well as Australia does. This is a lesser-known secret of Australia’s reign as a competitive cricketing power.

Captain Tim Paine's role in Australian cricket’s revival can neither be under-estimated nor over-acknowledged.

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