ADELAIDE: Mitchell Starc didn’t like the concept of playing with a pink ball under lights when the first-ever day-night test match was initially put on the schedule.
Now, as he readies to lead the Australian attack against New Zealand in what is essentially a live trial for the concept, Starc may have a more open mind.
Taking eight wickets (5-28 and 3-62) with the pink ball for New South Wales in an interstate Sheffield Shield match against South Australia last month prepared him well for the test starting Friday at the Adelaide Oval.
Starc has been Australia’s form bowler since the start of the year, helping his country capture a World Cup title capped with a win over co-host New Zealand in the final and last week bowling the fastest delivery ever recorded officially in a test match at 160.4 kph (99.7 mph).
He’ll have more responsibility now as the senior bowler after veteran pace spearhead Mitchell Johnson retired following the drawn second test in Perth.
“Obviously, losing someone of the quality of Mitchell Johnson is always tough for a team, but I think Mitchell Starc is going to step up and fill that role,” Australia captain Steve Smith said.
“We saw last week the way he bowled was extremely impressive to bowl 37 overs above 145 kph (90 mph) consistently, that’s pretty impressive so hopefully we can a lot more of that.”
Starc took six wickets in Australia’s 208-run win over New Zealand in the series-opener at Brisbane, and four more in Perth.
With Johnson out, and with selectors sending backup spinning option Steve O’Keefe home on the eve of the test, Australia’s attack will most likely focus on the pacemen supporting Starc.
Josh Hazlewood has played in the first two tests, with veteran Peter Siddle and James Pattinson vying for the other spots in a combination that will have Nathan Lyon as the only spinner and Mitch Marsh as the allrounder. Shaun Marsh will replace injured batsman Usman Khawaja and bat at No. 5.
Smith said the pink ball had been refined to the degree that it should satisfy critics concerned about its durability, and the first day-night test match should generate some extra excitement and bigger crowds than the previous matches in the series. Organizers expect 40,000 spectators on Friday.
“It’s a really exciting concept I can’t wait to get out and give it a crack,” he said. “I think the crowds have rolled in. Obviously, the first two tests were a bit disappointing in terms of crowds. There’s some big numbers expected for at least the first three days here. So I think it’s really exciting for us moving forward.”
With some concern over new-ball bowler Trent Boult’s back problem, New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum hasn’t settled on a starting XI.
“Trent bowled yesterday in the nets and I thought he bowled with good pace,” McCullum said. “He sent a couple of bouncers in there as well just like all the other bowlers did last night.”
He said Boult would be given time to prove his fitness, and the bowling combination was still undecided because of the unusual conditions.
“We’ve got some considerations in terms of the wicket and just some slightly different quirks and with the game obviously being played a bit later, I wouldn’t think we’d name an unchanged 11,” he said. “It’s just a matter of working out what the best balance is.”
McCullum dismissed the notion that the pink ball would give bowlers an advantage under the lights.
“There’s a lot been made that it’s almost unplayable during those times, but it’s just a little bit more challenging during that stage,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you can’t get runs, or survive, and ensure you’re there to bat the next day when conditions will be easier. It is a quirk of this test match.”
New Zealand hasn’t lost any of its last seven series, and needs a win in Adelaide to extend the sequence.
Australia (from): David Warner, Joe Burns, Steve Smith (captain), Adam Voges, Shaun Marsh Mitchell Marsh, Peter Nevill, Mitch Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Nathan Lyon.
New Zealand (from): Martin Guptill, Tom Latham, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Brendon McCullum (captain), B.J. Watling, Doug Bracewell, Mark Craig, Matt Henry, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Mitchell Santner, Neil Wagner.