Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Scott Bailey

Halting Bazball and lifting the urn will define bowlers

The Josh Hazlewood-Nathan Lyon-Mitchell Starc-Pat Cummins attack will be defined by the 2023 Ashes. (Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS) (AAP)

What's the difference between being regarded as a very good bowling attack and being remembered as one of country's all-time greats?

For Australia's veteran pack, the answer to that question is likely to come in the shape of a 10.5-centimetre urn.

Together, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood have done most things in world cricket.

The quicks have won a one-day and T20 World Cup together, and as a quartet have also taken Australia to a World Test Championship title.

They have played 22 Tests together, winning 13, and have regularly held the title of the world's best attack.

They have retained the Ashes in England via a drawn series four years ago, and while there has been limited success in India that is more a fault of the batting than the bowling.

Last December, they became the first quartet in Test history to run out together with 200 wickets to each of their names.

That's a feat Australia's famous attack of Shane Warne, Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie and Glenn McGrath didn't achieve, albeit more through timing than anything else.

Nor did any attack involving Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson from the 1970s, or combinations of Richie Benaud, Ray Lindwall, Alan Davidson, Bill Johnston and Keith Miller in the 1950s.

But the latest foursome know they are likely to be judged on one thing: Could they end a 22-year drought and finally secure an Ashes series win for Australia in England?

"I have lost a series in England, drawn a series and now it is time to win a series," Hazlewood told AAP.

"We're all in the same boat. It can be that last tick we're all after.

"We have been together for a while. We got the 200 wickets each, which is a record. We won't be back here together.

"It was quite big last time in 2019 when it was 2-2. If we can get up, it will be huge. It will definitely be a massive tick for us."

Australia's veteran quicks, all now aged 30 or over, know they won't do it alone once the series starts at Edgbaston on Friday.

Scott Boland has become almost undroppable, and will likely play close to as many games as Starc and Hazlewood.

With Cameron Green in tow, Australia's attack is in the best place it has been since the retirement of the 'golden generation' in the mid-2000s.

"It is hard to say where they rate but it is a quality attack," Steve Waugh, who captained Warne, Lee, Gillespie and McGrath, said.

"When you have someone like Scott Boland who is in and out of the side (it shows how good the bowling attack is).

"Nathan Lyon is up there with the best ever. That just gives the team balance and the captain lots of options.

"Cameron Green ... we've been missing the allrounder since probably Keith Miller. He is potentially the next best since him."

Australia could also need an army to stop England's batting.

While Steve Smith produced Don Bradman-like figures four years ago, and Marnus Labuschagne is the world's No.1-ranked batsman, all eyes will be on England's top order.

Since Brendon McCullum's arrival as coach last year and Ben Stokes' appointment to the captaincy, England have won 11 of 13 Tests.

They've done so off the back of the most audacious batting Test cricket has seen.

Runs have been scored at a rate of 4.85 an over, while five players have averaged more than 45 and gone at a strike-rate of above 75.

It's the reason this series is the most anticipated in Test cricket for 15 years.

It's also why this Ashes series looms as legacy-defining for the veteran pack.

Australia believe they are well equipped to handle England's batting.

They have been the most miserly team in Test cricket for the past four years, and while their fields will likely change to accommodate 'Bazball', their bowling won't.

"The economy rates means you are putting the ball in the right areas," Hazlewood said.

"It will come down to us just holding that area. If they hit it off us for a session here and there, then well played.

"And if they don't, hopefully (we'll) take a few wickets.

"You can fall into the trap of chasing the game a bit and turning it into a one-day innings. If you can hold that length, it has worked every other time."

Whether that approach comes off against a fearless England is set to define how history views the quartet of Cummins, Lyon, Starc and Hazlewood.


Jun 16-Jun 20: First Test (Edgbaston, Birmingham)

Jun 28-Jul 2: Second Test (Lord's, London)

Jul 6-Jul 10: Third Test (Headingley, Leeds)

Jul 19-Jul 23: Fourth Test (Old Trafford, Manchester)

Jul 27-Jul 31: Fifth Test (The Oval, London)

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.