Men’s Ashes 2021-22 – Rise of Cameron Green and the Australian Seam Cartel

Correspondence analysis

Increase in test quality resources means Australia is no longer so dependent on the ‘big three’

Strength in depth. This is what Australia is building into its booming fast bowling cartel, as England discovered on Boxing Day.

Pat Cummins was hardly missed in Adelaide, but he only took five deliveries to the MCG to remind everyone why he’s still the No. 1 bowler in the world. He knocked out Haseeb Hameed with a superb delivery in the second and then did the same with Zak Crawley and Dawid Malan to win three wickets in the first session.
Josh Hazlewood, with 215 try wickets at 25.63, has barely played a role in the series since his brilliant seven on opening morning at Gabba that set the tone for what was to come. Hazlewood’s only duty on Boxing Day was to present Australia’s sixth pick for quick pitcher, Scott Boland, with his brand new Baggy Green cap. But he might just come back from a secondary strain in Sydney or Hobart as fresh as a daisy.
Mitchell Starc, who played Adelaide as the offensive leader, exceeded the requirements in the opening session, playing just four overs and going largely unnoticed. But he returned after lunch to claim Joe Root’s precious scalp for the second time in two races as the English skipper reached his third half-century in the series. He would later sack Jonny Bairstow for the ninth time in Test Cricket with a brutal shortball just as Bairstow had started to feel comfortable on his return.
Jhye Richardson, who won five in round four in Adelaide, and Michael Neser, who won major wickets in both rounds of his first test, were both rested from pain as they appeared both play well without embarrassment in practice on Christmas Eve. In their absence, Boland caused 13 false hits from England hitters in his first 60 test crickets, one less than Cummins’ 14, which produced three wickets – and the Victorian later returned to pick up his first trial scalp.
Australia’s fifth bowler, Cameron Green, had one of the best spells of the day in the middle of the session. He delivered 24 balls at a steady pace, almost all over 140 km / h / 87 mph, including a 144 km / h / 89 mph fishing that passed Ben Stokes’ outside edge and had wicket keeper Alex Carey reaching over his head. Stokes faced 17 of 24 balls and only scored one point before scoring a point trying to fabricate a scoring shot out of thin air. Green was then given a rest, only for Cummins to replace him at the end of the limbs, leaving English fans green with envy at such luxury.

As inept as England have been in this Ashes series, eliminated under 200 for the third time in five innings and a record for the 12th time in the calendar year, Australia’s depth of quality in its fast bowling ranks reached new levels. Just 12 months after Cummins, Hazlewood and Starc were thrown into the ground in all four tests against India in a losing streak, and just months after James Pattinson retired, Australia used seven fast bowlers in five innings of bowling in this series, combining for 38 of the 50 wickets taken at a cost of just 19.55 per scalp, and hitting 44.6 per layoff.

The major bonus has been the green. The 22-year-old did not take a wicket last summer, although he played better than his numbers suggested.

He now casts match-changing spells. He’s taken the key wickets of Root and Stokes twice each in this series. His MCG spell could have been his best yet. England were hardly well placed at 4 for 110 but Stokes was starting to accelerate after patiently starting off. He kicked Starc off his pads for four, then threw Nathan Lyon on six to go from 35 balls to 22 and at least give Australia something to think about.

But Green tied it up with Australia’s fastest spell of the day, and one of the most accurate. The Australian No.6, who is batting 52.84 in first class cricket and has eight centuries of first class, equaled the great English all-rounder in knots with a spell as venomous as anything Starc or Cummins have come together. There was a steep bounce, crisp sewing motion, and infallible precision. Jos Buttler was almost Green’s second victim, cut in half by a bullet that shredded the seam and bounced a few inches from the middle and the outside. Green spoke on Christmas Eve of trying to get comfortable at the test level and avoid feeling overwhelmed as a kid in test cricket. He is comfortable with the ball it seems. The next challenge is to get familiar with the bat.

His bowling gave Cummins a comfortable introduction to the test harbor office. He doesn’t need to overwork any of his rapids. Cummins cast a six-man spell in the morning, but no one played more than five in a row afterwards and Green was able to be used in two bursts of four.

It also allowed the Australian managers to be careful with any of their rapids if there is even a hint of pain, as they did with Hazlewood, Richardson and Neser in Melbourne. They can even play horses for lessons. Boland is an MCG specialist who took 96 first-class wickets at 25.56 for the test, while Starc, Hazlewood, Richardson and Neser all averaged over 35 at the site.

Richardson and Neser, who are more dangerous in the swing and seam conditions, may be retained for a more appropriate deployment. Green’s presence in the top six, provided his body holds up, could also give Australia the opportunity to play two spinners if the conditions are right.

Australia will face much more skilled and stubborn batting teams than the one England sent on this tour. But their addiction to the big three of Cummins, Starc and Hazlewood seems a distant memory.

Alex Malcolm is Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo

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