SYDNEY: Australia are relishing the prospect of uniting their “big four” pace attack for the first time at the Champions Trophy – and sending a message to England ahead of the Ashes. Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson are all fit and poised to bowl together given conducive conditions at the tournament in England and Wales.
In Australia they are seen as potentially the most potent pace quartet since the mighty West Indies teams of the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s. Injuries have prevented the strike bowlers from playing together in the same Australian squad and coach Darren Lehmann is licking his lips at the opportunity to let them loose. “It’s the first time we’ve had the big four available,” Lehmann said.
“It would be great to see them go at it and see how they go. They’re quality players and we’ve got a quality squad.” Injury-bedevilled Cummins is finally fit and playing consistent cricket for the first time in his career after overcoming a series of back stress fractures, while Pattinson has returned from shin and back injuries.
Starc, who has recovered from a foot injury that cut short his India Test tour in March, said he was excited by the prospect of combining with his fellow speedsters at the Champions Trophy. “We’ve had our issues with injury but Patty’s (Cummins) only just turned 24 – I’m 27 and I’m the oldest – so we’ve still got plenty of time to wreak havoc on batsmen around the world,” Starc said ahead of his departure for England.
“Hopefully that starts with the Champions Trophy and then onwards to the Ashes (in Australia) later in the year.” Former Test batsman Adam Voges, playing English county cricket with Middlesex, said anything was possible for Australia if the foursome can stay fit and available. “If they’ve got all four to choose from then it is going to be incredibly exciting to watch, maybe not to face,” Voges said. “It’s a luxury Australia hasn’t had for a while.”
Australia’s participation at the Champions Trophy has been clouded by an acrimonious stand-off in pay talks between the players’ union and Cricket Australia with a looming June 30 expiry of their current financial deal. Lehmann has conceded the bitter dispute will be a distraction for Australia, but he has played down any potential boycott of the Ashes, as suggested by some players.
Another pressing issue for Lehmann will be where big-hitting Chris Lynn fits into the batting line-up, if at all. Lynn was in devastating form for Kolkata Knight Riders at the top of the order in this year’s Indian Premier League, scoring 295 runs at an average of 49.16 and a strike rate of 180.98. “First, he’s got to get selected in the eleven and the captain (Steve Smith) will tell him where he’s going to bat,” Lehmann said.
“We’ve had discussions. He’s an excitement machine.” The experienced David Warner and Aaron Finch open the innings at one-day level, but with neither Shaun Marsh nor Usman Khawaja selected in the squad, Lynn looks as close as he ever has to getting his chance at an extended opportunity.
Australia, grouped with New Zealand, England and Bangladesh, get their Champions Trophy campaign under way against the Black Caps at Edgbaston on June 2. The Australians are bidding for an unprecedented third Trophy after winning back-to-back in 2006 and 2009.