Ashes 2017: Players in focus – Pacemen James Anderson and Mitchell Starc

In the second of two articles this week looking at key figures in this Ashes series, MM investigate the importance of each side’s leading bowler. 

Mitchell Starc

Since making his test debut for Australia against New Zealand in December 2011, Mitchell Starc has become a fundamental component of the Aussie bowling attack.

Renowned for his super-fast left-arm yorkers, Starc will prove to be a huge threat to England’s often brittle top order.

Starc is only one of five men to have bowled over 160 kilometres an hour and is the first ever left-armer to achieve the feat.

Not only is Starc the fastest bowler to take 100 one day international wickets, he is also a dab hand with the bat, holding the record for the most sixes at the MCG ground in one innings.

Currently boasting a test bowling average of 28.36 and a record of five career fivers and one ten-wicket haul, Starc immediately stands out as a one to watch this Ashes series.

Starc, currently ranked as the ICC’s 13th best test bowler, will front up a likely Aussie bowling attack comprising of Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon and Pat Cummins.

Starc v Engand

At 27, Starc has previously featured in two Ashes series, both in England, missing out on the 2013-14 home series with a stress fracture in his back.

In the eight fixtures he’s played against England, the New South Wales man has taken a total of 29 wickets from 262.2 overs, gaining 47 maidens in that period.

However, Starc’s stand out performance came in 2015 at Trent Bridge when the paceman picked up six wickets including Ian Bell, Alastair Cook and Joe Root, for 111 runs.

As a pace specialist, Starc has a strong record bowling with the new ball, frequently toppling top-order batsmen such as Cook, Jonathan Trott, Joe Root and Adam Lyth in his short Ashes career.

How will Starc fare this Ashes series?

Earlier this month in a domestic Sheffield Shield clash against Western Australia, Starc took a double hat-trick in two separate innings, putting out a warning to awaiting England batsmen.

However, Starc hasn’t featured internationally for Australia’s test side since February after missing out on the tour of Bangladesh through a stress fracture of his foot.

His presence on the tour was clearly missed as the Aussies surprisingly drew the series 1-1 to the ninth-ranked ICC test side.

Despite having previously failed to make a huge impact in tests against England, Starc is being tipped by recently retired fast-bowling counter-part Mitchell Johnson to emulate his own Ashes success.

Johnson took a remarkable 37 wickets in Australia’s 5-0 Ashes whitewash in 2013-14, a figure he has tipped Starc to match.

England’s opening batsmen will have to be wary of Starc’s electric opening bowling stints having taken as many as 19 wickets across all formats in the first over of an innings between January 2015 and November 2016.

Starc’s competent batting also adds extra steel to the Australian lower order and his highest test score of 99 against India demonstrates he is not just a one-trick pony.

Given Australia’s quick pitches and the ferocious speed of Mitchell Starc, England may struggle to counter the Aussie paceman.

Starc is undoubtedly one to watch this Ashes series.

Here is a clip of Mitchell Starc’s recent double hat-trick against Western Australia.


James Anderson

Since James Anderson made his debut as a 20-year old fresh-faced rookie against Zimbabwe in May 2003, the Burnley born paceman has truly cemented his name in English bowling history books alongside greats Ian Botham, Bob Willis and Fred Trueman.

Now boasting an impressive 506 career test wickets to his name, England’s highest all-time wicket taker has become the most feared member of the tourists bowling attack.

Anderson’s name has become synonymous with his characteristic right-arm swing bowling action, lulling awaiting batsmen into a false sense of security, before nipping back and clipping the beleaguered batters’ bails off the stumps.

James Anderson v Australia

In his 14-year test career Anderson has played 26 matches against Australia, taking 87 wickets in a total of 50 innings.

Furthermore, the 35-year-old possesses a 35.87 life-time bowling average against the Aussies, slightly higher than his overall career average of 27.39 in test matches.

The Lancashire opening bowler has successfully helped England to five career Ashes victories, including a historic 3-1 away series victory in 2010-11 to enable the Barmy Army to lift the urn in Australia for the first time in 24 years.

Anderson has also demonstrated that he can bat, stepping in as England’s resident night-watchman, but most famously played out a 69 ball unbroken 10th wicket partnership with fellow bowler Monty Panesar at Cardiff in 2009 to earn a historic draw.

Perhaps Anderson’s most laudable moment in England whites came during the 2015 Ashes victory at Trent Bridge, taking an impressive 6–47 haul and restricting the Aussie tourists to a meagre first-innings total of 136.

How will Anderson fare this series?

Despite his age, Anderson continues to impress at the highest level, taking a monumental 39 test-wickets in 14 innings in 2017 alone against West Indian and South African touring sides.

Anderson is currently the ICC number one ranked test bowler and thanks to impressive bowling tallies against West Indies, Anderson became the first ever English bowler to reach 500 test wickets.

However, Anderson has a mixed record when playing down under.

2010-11 was his best tour taking a total of 24 wickets against the Aussies. However, 2006-07 proved to be much less impressive, picking up a minimal five wickets in six innings, going at an 82.59 average.

In England’s last Ashes trip abroad, Anderson again struggled, only taking 14 wickets in the 10 innings that he played.

Injuries are also a further factor that has to be taken in consideration for a player that has had four major afflictions in the last two years. Back, groin, ankle and abdominal injuries have frequently plagued Anderson’s career, and there is always a possibility one could re-occur.

In a predicted four-man pace attack with Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad and uncapped Craig Overton, Anderson will bear the brunt of responsibility as England’s most experienced bowler.

Despite being England’s king of swing, Anderson will find it tougher to pick up wickets, especially on pitches that typically favour faster pace bowlers than the Burnley man.

If England are to have any chance of attaining an unlikely away victory, Jimmy Anderson will undoubtedly play a key role, orchestrating England’s pace attack on a variety of notoriously quick pitches.

Here is a video of Anderson’s career best 7-42, including his 500th test wicket in this summer’s match against West Indies.

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