Mitchell Starc’s Sheffield Shield Warning

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At around the same time as England arrived in Australia, Mitchell Starc produced a dominant display of bowling against South Australia in the Sheffield Shield. His recent form has been superb, including recording his career best first-class bowling figures. After not playing any competitive cricket since June, Mitchell Starc’s return to Australian domestic cricket has been unparalleled. This news must surely terrify England’s top order. Hoping for some respite after Mitchell Johnson bounced them out in 2013-4, England’s greatest challenge in the Ashes will come in the way they deal with Starc’s sensational form.

JLT One-Day Cup

Mitchell Starc’s return to domestic cricket came in his appearance for New South Wales in their fifty over match against South Australia. Superficially it did not seem the most impressive of performances, but he played far better than his figures of 10-0-55-1 would suggest. When taking into account that his new ball partner conceded 77 runs in his ten over spell and that fellow international Nathan Lyon took 2-88 in nine overs, his economy was one of the lowest in his team. Starc picked up the crucial wicket of Jake Weatherald, who had passed his century and was looking to go big at the death.

The next two matches were even more impressive, with hauls of 3-48 and 3-35 against Queensland and Victoria respectively. His performance against Queensland included taking the wickets of several big name players, Usman Khawaja and Joe Burns were both victims of Starc, who impressed with the new ball. Mitchell Starc followed this up by tearing through Victoria’s top order, notably dismissing their captain and Ashes hopeful Peter Handscomb for a duck. The lateral movement Starc engineered was huge in this rain-affected clash and he proved to be too great a threat for Victoria to handle.
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If it was just his limited overs form that was impressive, England would feel relatively relieved. However, they will feel threatened by the fact that his recent first-class performances have been some of the best of his career. Starc is peaking at exactly the right time with the pink ball and recorded his career-best figures in his first game back in the extended format.

Sheffield Shield

In the two Sheffield Shield matches Mitchell Starc has played this season, he has looked simply unstoppable. The left-armer picked up an astonishing haul of 10-119 in the first match, including his career best figures of 8-73 in the second innings. In particular, he looked especially threatening towards the end of the innings, when the pink ball began to wear and start to reverse. One of the best examples of this was the beauty he bowled to dismiss Travis Head, the South Australia captain. Angling the ball into the left-hander, Starc managed to get the ball to swing in more to Head, and beat his drive and crashed into the top of middle. He administered a similar treatment to Jake Lehmann as well. Starc was also clinical in his treatment of South Australia’s lower order, in which he consistently found the perfect yorker-length and effortlessly ran through their tail. One of England’s strengths is the depth and quality of their batting, but Starc will more than challenge them and could potentially wreak havoc.
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Starc continued this form in his most recent outing against Western Australia, as New South Wales fielded a very strong bowling attack also including Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood. Starc picked up a hat-trick and ended with figures of 20-6-56-4 and his economy of sub three shows the control he had. It remains to be seen how he gets on in the second innings, but we can surely expect more of the same from the talented seamer.

There is no denying that Mitchell Starc is in ominous form and the England batsmen will need to design a plan to tame him. After James Vince, Gary Ballance and Dawid Malan all scored runs in their tour match, they were not facing a strong enough opposition to prepare for the challenge Starc poses. The New South Wales will be particularly potent in the Adelaide day-night Test, as the Sheffield Shield’s use of the pink ball will give him an added advantage over England’s seamers.

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