South Africa national cricket team‬, ‪Cricket‬, ‪Mitchell Starc‬‬

Mitchell Starc grows swing wings in South Africa to combat dour Durban deck

AUSTRALIAN spearhead Mitchell Starc finally has the red ball swinging again, just as South Africa try to blunt his impact by pre-ordering a slow pitch for the first Test in Durban.

AUSTRALIAN spearhead Mitchell Starc finally has the red ball swinging again, just as South Africa try to blunt his impact by pre-ordering a slow pitch for the first Test in Durban.

The Proteas are nervous about getting into a gun slinging battle with Australia’s pace attack and will reportedly try and tone down the fiery wickets they served up for India last month.

However, Starc feels he has made a major breakthrough with his game that may take the surface out of the equation.

Mitchell Starc is set to combat the slow Durban wicket with swing. Picture: Phil Hillyard

Mitchell Starc is set to combat the slow Durban wicket with swing. Picture: Phil HillyardSource:News Corp Australia

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Over recent home summers Starc and other bowlers have become increasingly disillusioned by the distinct lack of swing offered by the Kookaburra ball – as has Cricket Australia, who have started using Dukes balls for the second half of the Sheffield Shield season.

Flat balls on even flatter wickets have been a crying shame for a bowler like Starc who when at his best – as he was for the 2015 World Cup – was having his swing bowling skills compared to the magic worked by former Pakistan great Wasim Akram.

LISTEN! Aussie Test wicketkeeper Tim Paine has his say on the CRICKET UNFILTERED podcast ahead of the first Test against South Africa and legend Lisa Sthalekar also joins the show

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The Kookaburra didn’t move off the straight for Starc for the entire Ashes summer, but the left-arm weapon has discovered the South African variety seem to still have wings.

Since arriving in the country Starc has relished in that long lost feeling of making the red ball talk through the air.

Australia are pessimistic about what kind of pace they’ll get out of the Durban track, but the silver lining could be that Starc is out to relaunch himself as the king of swing.

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“Starcy … was so happy the way the ball was coming out,” said captain Steve Smith when asked about the freshness of his quicks.

“He was swinging it … you could just see on their faces that they were a bit more refreshed and just ready to go.”

Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins seized upon an unusual opportunity to bowl at Australia’s batsmen in a centre-wicket session in Durban on Tuesday, just two days out from the first Test.

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Hazlewood struck Usman Khawaja on the helmet and Starc caught Smith high on the gloves in a willing session where the Australian pace attack showcased the dynamic nature of their three-pronged combination.

South Africa have a world class bowling arsenal of their own but don’t want to expose their batsmen to Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins on a lightning fast deck.

The Proteas are also likely to abandon their penchant for playing five specialist bowlers (four quicks and a spinner) in a bid to further fortify a batting line-up that against India looked decidedly thin with out-of-form wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock struggling to score at No.6.

As a result, Smith and the Australians are expecting a pitch that could play host to another war of attrition like they faced against England on flat surfaces during the Ashes.

“It didn’t surprise me. I thought that they’d go with quite slow wickets or maybe green wickets. One of the two. I didn’t think they’d have a great deal of pace,” said Smith upon inspecting the Durban wicket.

“Looking at the wicket now a couple of days out, it looks like it could be quite slow, maybe not a great deal of carry.

“It’s just about summing it up when we’re out there and adapting to whatever we’re dealt and identifying it quickly and making sure we’re doing everything we need to do on our feet quickly.

“The first Test match is so important so you don’t want to be behind the Eight ball early in this series.”


Australian team: David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith (capt), Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon

South Africa likely team: Dean Elgar, Aiden Makram, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis (capt), Wiaan Mulder/Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Morne Morkel




Can the magic man produce yet again when the stakes are at their highest? If the pitches offer even half as much of the fiery pace and bounce India were subjected to last month, this shapes as an epic battle for Smith to conquer.


The only Australian cricketer not to have had a break since the start of the summer, but has come into camp rejuvenated. Warner has proven that he has perhaps a better ability to change quickly between formats than anyone in the world and, despite having no red ball preparation, he has brought the energy from the Twenty20 team’s big triumph in New Zealand with him.

David Warner has an incredible record in South Africa.

David Warner has an incredible record in South Africa.Source:AFP


The South African captain is not 100 per cent fit after fracturing his right index finger against India and another blow could consign him to surgery and six months on the sidelines. But du Plessis has proven an inspiration in past Tests against Australia and believes he can do it again with no preparation.


One of cricket’s all-time great batsmen wasn’t part of the Test team that destroyed Australia down under the summer before last. But he returns at a time when South Africa desperately need him. A freak in the class of Smith and Kohli, de Villiers wants to go out on top with one last big scalp.



By all reports, the foot that gave Starc issues during the Ashes has settled down and he has arrived in South Africa with the red ball swinging. If the home side’s plan to take the pace out of the wickets comes to fruition, Starc’s swing and variation will be absolutely crucial.


All eyes are on the fast bowler who made his name in South Africa to see how he goes upon his long-awaited return seven years later. Express pace and an ability to play almost as an all-rounder at No.8 makes him one of the most crucial figures in the series.


Kagiso Rabada is the No.1 ranked fast bowler on the planet.

Kagiso Rabada is the No.1 ranked fast bowler on the planet.Source:AFP

With no Dale Steyn, Rabada is the new raging bull of the South African attack. Australian captain Steve Smith has already flagged an intention to potentially try and get under Rabada’s skin, as the fiery quick is only one disciplinary slip-up away from suspension. The No.1 ranked fast bowler in world cricket cannot be underestimated on home soil.


Which Vernon Philander will turn up for this series? Back in 2011 his extraordinary swing bowling annihilated Australia and he was the architect behind the embarrassing 47 all out in Cape Town. However, on Australia’s last visit in 2014, David Warner and company took Philander to the cleaners.

PITCH: Predicted to be slow.

WEATHER: Sunny and a warm 27 degrees for duration of the Test

TIP: Which team is more run down after their long respective summers, and which batting line-up can best handle rampant fast bowling? Australia to take an early lead in a series that should see-saw.

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