With countless frontline pacemen at their disposal, the only Australian bowler who has a tight grip on a Test spot is Mitchell Johnson.
Since Ryan Harris has been kept in cotton wool, no other bowler has been able to provide Johnson with similar support that Jason Gillespie and Brett Lee gave Glenn McGrath during The Untouchables’ reign.
Questions remain about the best makeup for the Aussies’ pace arsenal this summer and beyond.
Does Australia persist with the incumbent fast men Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc against India?
The doubt that has arisen from Australia’s attack being put to the sword in Pakistan not only means that Sheffield Shield fast bowlers will be upping the ante to thrust their names onto the selection table, but will bring more opportunities for bowlers in the next 18 months due to a gruelling international schedule.
So who are the fast bowlers to watch?
Like a fine wine, Bollinger’s bowling has been getting better with age. At 33, the NSW stalwart remains firmly in the national selectors’ thoughts due to his impressive and consistent performances in the Sheffield Shield over the past two seasons, and a solid off-season with Kent in English County cricket.
The left-arm opening bowler has taken 59 Shield scalps in the past two years at 25.71 and 57 wickets for Kent in three formats during his stint as their overseas pro, yet pundits still fail to mention him as a serious Test contender.
Bollinger was rushed into Australia’s Test squad for the final Test at the SCG against England last summer and played in the recent T20 series against South Africa. These rewards show the Sydney native is on the cusp of adding to his 12 Tests and 50 wickets at 25.92.
With Ryan Harris, James Pattinson, Pat Cummins, Ben Hilfenhaus and Jackson Bird unable to prove their fitness, Bollinger has an opportunity to reawaken his Test career and terrorise Indian batsmen with fellow left-armer Johnson.
The 23-year-old has been dubbed Australia’s next fast-bowling superstar and has been whispered by influential Aussie cricket figures to be in the reckoning for a Test debut against India this summer.
Already representing Australia six times in ODI and T20 matches, the NSW quick has risen above expectations placed on him since he was the youngest fast-bowler to be selected for NSW at age 17. He was also selected for his ODI debut at 19, and toured with the Australian Test squad to India in 2010.
With Darren Lehmann a huge proponent of selecting fast bowlers who push the speed gun, Hazlewood holds an advantage over other candidates for a cherished Test spot. He didn’t do his claims any harm with 7/36 against South Australia in this season’s first domestic one-day match for NSW, with five of his victims being clean-bowled due to Hazlewood’s sheer pace and hooping movement.
The only thing going against the Tamworth native is his injury record, and susceptibility to breaking down over five days. With two Shield matches to be played before the first Test in Brisbane, the selectors will be watching Hazlewood with a magnifying glass to see if his performances warrant a precious baggy green.
The South Australian seamer has been the leading bowler in the Shiled over the last two seasons, with 84 wickets at 23.42, and recently had match figures of 9/82 off 47 overs against Queensland on a flat pitch, including a hat-trick and a match-turning 6/34 in the second innings.
Renowned for his suffocating spells and late away swing to right-handed batsmen, the 27-year-old has the chance to beat out his rivals with two more convincing showings in Shield.
Held in very high regard by Test legends Shane Warne, Mike Hussey and Western Australia coach Justin Langer, Coulter-Nile has been extremely close to making his Test debut over the last 12 months. The WA paceman was in the Ashes Test squad against England last summer and was again close to being picked in the Test squad that faced No. 1-ranked South Africa in February.
Coulter-Nile has represented Australia A several times and the national side in seven ODIs and ten T20s, for 25 wickets. He has been selected in a formidable pace attack for the upcoming ODI series against South Africa starting on November 14th.
The Perth native never looked like he had been on the injured list for four months as he rattled Tasmania in their recent Shield match, with a quick-fire 64 and a crucial fiery spell of 3/34.
Coulter-Nile’s ability to bowl 140 plus kph pits him against Josh Hazlewood for a strike bowling berth in the Test series. A handy, explosive lower order batsmen and rated by John Inverarity as one of the top three or four fielders in the country, Coulter-Nile has a lot to offer.
Behrendoff has been lauded by his state coach and Aussie cricket legend Justin Langer, based on the left-arm fast bowler’s consistent top-class form over the last 12 months.
The Canberra product recently led WA’s attack to the one-day cup title against powerhouse NSW by taking 5-27 in a match-winning spell in the pressure cooker final only three months out from the World Cup.
Last season Behrendorff took 6/143 in the Shield final against NSW on a docile pitch that couldn’t force a result, which made him finish the second highest wicket-taker in the competition with 40 wickets at 22.70, and led to selection for Australia A versus South Africa in August.
Behrendorff is a tall strike-bowler who can confuse the batsmen with rising bounce or subtle swing and needs to stay ahead of Starc and Bollinger if he is a chance of being considered for the Test side. Another consistent season in the Shield with more five-wicket hauls will keep the West Australian within touching distance of a baggy green.
Tune in tomorrow to find out who of the aforementioned quicks deserves a chance to wear the baggy green this summer against the Indians.
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