Pakistan was just 41 runs away from inflicting a major embarrassment on the Aussies at Brisbane. Shoulders were dropping and nervousness was creeping in. A side which had lost 9 consecutive test matches in Australia since 1999 was on the verge of chasing the highest ever test total of 490 runs, even when the memories of their home loss to the Proteas just a few weeks back were still afresh.
Enter the familiar saviour, Mitchell Starc. In a moment of brilliance he bounces out Asad Shafiq and brings the curtain down on a fairy-tale Pakistani chase. He alone, lifts up the Aussies’ mood and sends them into raptures.
After being out of action for the first half of the year, Starc has made a strong comeback in the second half and continues to impress with every outing ever since.
Not much has gone the Aussies’ way after their series victory against the depleting Kiwi side and a home victory against the already depleted West Indies side; all of which came in the first half of the year. Since then they have lost the away tie to the Lankans 0-3 and were beaten 1-2 at home by the Proteas.
In the press conference after the Hobart loss, Steven Smith even went on to say, “I’m quite sick of saying it. We’ve lost five times in a row and for an Australian cricket team that’s humiliating and I’m embarrassed to be sitting here in this position, to be honest with you.”
The lone bright spot on most of those forgetful evenings has been this lanky speedster from New South Wales – Mitchell Starc.
In Sri Lanka, Starc bowled with a lot of fire like a man on a mission. His pace and swing did all the talking. At Pallekelle, Galle and Colombo, Lankan spinners accounted for 54 of the 60 wickets that fell; out of which only 4 wickets were picked up by all the Lankan seamers combined. On the same wickets, as if to say it didn’t matter to him where he bowled, Starc alone snatched up 24 wickets at an average of 15.16 for every 26 balls he bowled. He finished as the 2nd highest wicket taker behind Herath’s 28 scalps.
Even against the Proteas, Starc bowled with a lot of heart but to no avail as the team’s batsmen let the bowlers down time and again. For Starc, there isn’t much in the results column to show for but that shouldn’t take the shine away from his personal performance.
In 2016, despite missing the first five test matches, Starc is currently the fourth highest wicket taker with 45 wickets only three behind the 3rd placed Stuart Broad. Only Rabada with 35.3, among the bowlers who have picked up more than 20 wickets has a better strike rate than Starc’s 37.2. This speaks volumes of the season he is having.
For all the hard yards put up to come back from injury and for his performance at the highest level since then, Starc has had little to show for until the snorter that ended Asad Shafiq’s fighting innings at Gabba. As Shafiq walked back, Pakistan’s fate was sealed and more importantly for Starc and Australia, the sinking hearts found the much needed cheer.
“That wicket showed the class of Starcy”, said Steve Smith in the presentation ceremony later. Not only that, all of his 40 odd wickets this year have had a Starc signature on it, be it the menacing bouncers or the toe crushing yorkers.
After doing everything that he possibly could, Starc for once took Australia home. As the Boxing Day test beckons, Starc would like to repeat what he has been doing all through and hope the result to be much sweeter than the ones he has been having off late.