Starc okay with high economy to make high impact

Mitchell Starc trapped Ben Duckett lbw AFP/Getty Images

Mitchell Starc had promised to do things his way on this Ashes tour, and it is reaping rewards.

Although his efforts weren't enough to haul Australia to victory at Headingley, he claimed seven wickets in the match, taking his tally in the series to 13 from two games. That is already more outings than he managed in 2019, when he had appeared only at Old Trafford - where the teams head next in this series, with Australia again looking for the win that will retain the Ashes - before being strangely omitted at The Oval, as the visitors blundered and had to share the series.

Four years ago, Starc had been initially overlooked partly because of a focus on economy rates. He tried to adjust his methods to fit, and claimed four wickets in the victory at Old Trafford, but he felt it had a detrimental impact on his game that lingered when he returned home. This time, with Bazball to the fore, economy rates were unlikely to be the deciding factor, and that has played to Starc's advantage.

"There was a big [focus] on economy rates last time which plenty of guys spoke about throughout the tour, and we all bought into that. And that was something that worked really [well] for us to retain the Ashes then," Starc said. "[But] it affected my approach certainly going back to Australia and losing some airspeed. It took away from some of my strengths and some of the role that I play in our attack.

"I wasn't going to change that this time, and if that meant I didn't play, so be it. I was going to stick to my strengths and what I bring to the attack rather than trying to be someone like Josh [Hazlewood] or someone like Pat [Cummins], because that's not going to complement the group."

During the ongoing Ashes, Starc has conceded runs at 4.43 an over, comfortably his highest for a series where he has played two Tests, but is on track for his most successful Ashes tour of the UK, with his previous best haul being the 18 wickets he took in 2015. Significantly, his strike rate is just 31.6 this time compared to an overall career figure of 49.1.

Starc admitted being rusty during the World Test Championship final against India at The Oval, although he still produced a brute of a delivery to remove Virat Kohli, and was omitted for the opening Ashes Test at Edgbaston where Josh Hazlewood and Scott Boland were preferred, before returning at Lord's.

"I've found a good bit of rhythm after the first week, The Oval game," he said. "The body is feeling good, the rhythm is there. I'm really clear about my role; it hasn't really changed to what I would normally do for this group in Australia and the way Pat's used me throughout."

Starc took out England's middle order in the first innings at Lord's - removing Joe Root, Harry Brook and, crucially, Ben Stokes in the first over of the third day - before producing one of his trademark inswingers to dismantle Ollie Pope's stumps in the second. Then there was the wobble-seam delivery, something Starc has learnt from Hazlewood and Pat Cummins in recent years and was not part of his armoury in 2019, which was on prominent display at Headingley, particularly in the second innings when he removed Ben Duckett and Moeen Ali.

"I've finally listened to Pat and Josh, I guess," he said. "They're two fantastic exponents of the wobble seam or whatever you want to call it. Having spoken to them over the last few years and being able to add that string to my bow is something that's helped develop my bowling, and not just be someone who can only swing it or bowl fast.

"I've now got another option to try to beat the bat both ways, or like [Sunday] it can be a wicket-taking ball depending on who I'm bowling to, or where I'm bowling as well. It's nice to get some rewards with it, and particularly over here where conditions can sometimes [offer] more off the seam than in the air."

When he later added Stokes and Jonny Bairstow in quick succession at Headingley, it looked like he could bowl Australia to Ashes glory there and then, but Brook and England's lower order held their nerve to set up the prospect of a cliffhanger finish to the series.

"It's never nice losing, but we've got a little break now to refresh," Starc said. "We've got some good memories, good juju from Manchester last time."