Clint McKay of the Melbourne Stars. Photo: Getty Images
KIERON Pollard is not the best batsman in the world, but he is one of the most destructive. Against Clint Mckay though he was made to look inept.
While Pollard top-scored last week for the Adelaide Strikers with an unbeaten 65 from 43 deliveries, the most remarkable aspect of his innings was how he was contained for so much of it by Melbourne Stars' wily pace attack.
Mckay bowled only nine deliveries to Pollard at the Adelaide Oval, but the feared West Indian missed five of them, swinging prematurely at the slower balls for which the Victorian is renowned.
It was not a stereotypical representation of a fast bowler exerting his dominance over a batsman, but it was just as effective - and was crucial in the Stars' move into top spot on the Big Bash League ladder.
''Unless you've got some serious Ks - 150km/h-plus - I think the batters are all quite used to pace these days. You need some tricks up your sleeve even if you do bowl in the mid-140s,'' was Mckay's rationale for his approach to Pollard and others in limited overs matches.
''Guys like myself, James Faulkner and Johnny Hastings don't have that 140-plus pace ball, so we have more tricks up our sleeve than most.''
Consistency is Mckay's greatest strength, to the extent where his most eye-catching performance this season, perversely, was when he conceded 10 runs an over at home to the Sydney Sixers.
''I can't afford to have bad games,'' Mckay said ahead of the Stars' match away to Brisbane on Thursday.
''I need to make sure the difference between my best and my worst is very narrow because I don't have the pace like James Pattinson or Patty Cummins. What I've got is consistency in my bowling and variety that I can use.''
Mckay's value at domestic and international level is not limited to curbing scoring.
In 2012, the 29-year-old claimed more one-day international wickets than any Australian - 27 at an average of 23.89 - and was the form bowler of last summer's ODI tri-series. His 5-28 was pivotal in Australia winning the deciding third final against Sri Lanka.
While the wickets' tally was healthy, Mckay was particularly buoyed to have played in all but three of Australia's 11 ODIs.
''Last summer was the first time in international cricket I've actually had a stretch of games where I've played consistently,'' he said.
''When you're playing a couple, then missing a few, it's hard to get into a routine and get some momentum.
''Holding your spot for a period of time makes you relax a bit more, which is great for the confidence, getting that backing from the selectors and coaching staff.''
Mckay's importance to the ODI team will almost certainly result in him missing the tail-end of the BBL in favour of bolstering Australia's attack in its series against Sri Lanka, which starts four days after the Sydney Test.
It would also coincide with a final period in which the Stars will aim to live up to their lofty expectations, as they have so far this season.
''We've been built from the ground up to be the best, like the Manchester United or Mumbai Indians of Australian cricket. We love that sort of pressure, we've basically put it on ourselves as well,'' he said.
''There are still five games of cricket to win … the group's in a great spot and we're raring to go.
''Sometimes it's unlucky when you are missing big games of [domestic] cricket, but there's nothing bigger than playing for your country.
''We've got a great squad [at the Stars] and I'm backing them, whatever 11 we put on the park, that we can get the job done and take this trophy home.''
Despite having represented Australia 36 times in limited-overs matches and boasting an impressive Sheffield Shield record - 106 wickets at 26.89 - Mckay has played just one Test - three years ago, against the West Indies in Perth when Peter Siddle injured a hamstring.
Mckay's 30th birthday coincides with the first day of Australia's four-Test series away to India.
While he has received assurances from Australia's coaches and selectors he is ''still in the mix for Test cricket'', there is little prospect of him being required in Delhi on February 22, even as a reserve Test bowler.
The recent Test debut of close friend John Hastings, also pigeonholed as a limited-overs option at international level, has given Mckay hope that a second Test stint is possible.
Probably a more realistic goal will be to remain one of Australia's favoured limited-overs pacemen for the 2015 World Cup, not just because the tournament will be held in Australia and New Zealand, but also because injury robbed him of a squad berth in 2011.