Four wickets for Starc, but top form still proves elusive
There goes another one … Mitchell Starc, still building to his peak, cleans bowls Victoria's Louis Cameron at the SCG on Thursday. Photo: Brendan Esposito
IF Mitchell Starc can pocket four wickets while still building to his top imagine what he could do once he regains peak form.
That's the glass half-full view of Starc's latest performance in the first-class arena, but alternatively the left-armer can consider himself extremely fortunate to collect a similar bag against South Africa should he win the nod from selectors and reproduce his Shield performance.
Starc was the least impressive of NSW's four seamers on Thursday but it would come as a major surprise should he not be named by John Inverarity on Friday afternoon in Australia's squad for the second Test in Adelaide next week.
A bowler's job, however, is to get batsmen out and Starc has a penchant for taking wickets with the red or white ball, irrespective of the method. That was illustrated again at the SCG where his 4-72 from 22.3 overs restricted Victoria's first-innings lead to only 37 runs.
The Blues will resume their second innings on Friday on 3-184, leading by 147 and confident their highly-rated pace attack can knock over Victoria a second time to snare outright points.
Starc bowled with more consistency on Thursday and though he was a long way from being the pick of the quicks there can be no doubting the quality of the batsmen he dismissed.
After removing David Hussey on Wednesday, he returned 24 hours later to snare the big wicket of former Test players Chris Rogers and Cameron White. Rogers had batted for 6¼ hours to make 125 and faced far more venomous deliveries than the short and wide offering from Starc which he cut to David Dawson at deep point. ''I think he had his moments,'' Rogers said. ''I don't think he's played a helluva lot of four-day cricket [recently], he's probably still getting back into it but he's a tall left-arm bowler who swings the ball into the righties and away to the lefties - they're always hard to face. Once he reaches his potential he could be anything.''
It remains one of the mysteries of Australian cricket that the left-handed opener, despite 56 first-class tons to his name, has not added to the one Test he played in 2008.
Starc's dismissal of White was far more encouraging, enticing the Victorian skipper to play down the wrong line and feather a catch behind to Brad Haddin when on 72.
Starc also claimed the wicket of No.11 Louis Cameron, who was bowled for a duck in his debut Shield innings, but was arguably out-bowled by his teammates. The Victorians were most impressed with Josh Hazlewood and Moises Henriques, who both picked up two wickets. Hazlewood's bounce and carry was a trademark of his performance while Henriques proved the most difficult for the Bushrangers to score from.
''He's got an old head on young shoulders, I think he's got a big future,'' Rogers said of Hazlewood.
Doug Bollinger was unlucky to be wicketless as he troubled both Rogers and White, who added 80 for the sixth wicket. White, in particular, was uncomfortable when directed with short balls at his ribcage.
The star for NSW with the bat was youngster Scott Henry, who made his second half-century of the game.
The 23-year-old was not out on 78 at stumps and will be eyeing his maiden first-class ton on Friday. He added an unbeaten 95 runs for the fourth wicket with Peter Nevill, who was unconquered on 54.