Ashes diary: Marcus Harris survives for Melbourne, lessons from Darren Stevens

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  • Justin Langer
    Australian cricketer
  • Mitchell Starc
    Mitchell Starc
    Australian cricketer
  • Marcus Harris
    Australian cricketer
Justin Langer chats to Marcus Harris (Getty Images)
Justin Langer chats to Marcus Harris (Getty Images)

There had been some suggestion that Mitchell Starc might take a rest on Boxing Day, having led Australia’s attack with such venom in Adelaide. But it seems like he will play after all, although Josh Hazlewood is unlikely to return just yet.

“It’s just [Starc’s] rib actually,” Australia coach Justin Langer said. “A lot of the bowlers talk about when they come back to Test cricket, bowl more overs, they jam down on that rib area so he should be fine. He’s tough.

“If he’s not right, then we’ll look at it. But at this stage, there’s no indication suggesting he won’t be playing the next Test.”

That would make Australia’s attack Pat Cummins, Jhye Richardson and Starc, plus spinner Nathan Lyon and Cameron Green, who is proving an excellent fifth bowling option. Michael Neser and new call-up Scott Boland would be left out.

One man who certainly will play is opener Marcus Harris, the only Australian yet to pull his weight in the series. The MCG is his home ground, despite being a West Aussie who grew up under Langer’s watch.

“He’ll play in the Test, no worries about that,” Langer said. “This is his home ground, he’s played a lot at the MCG. He hasn’t made the runs he’d like to at the moment but... he knows how to play.”

Landmark

If Boland was selected, he would become just the second indigenous Australian to play a Test for the national team in 144 years. The first, Jason Gillespie, told News Corp it would be “a proud day for Aboriginal Australia” if Boland was capped.

It’ll be all white

Dawid Malan has been a rare chink of light for England in this series so far. He puts his encouraging performances down to experience in Australia, and said that many of England’s batters are “learning on the job”.

Malan believes that England’s players need to ditch the timidity, drawing inspiration from the white-ball set-up he is a big part of these days. While acknowledging that technically the challenge is very different, the attitude would be helpful.

“Speaking to all the guys, everyone is up for the challenge, everyone is really keen to face up to the Australians,” he said. “We do it in white-ball cricket, we take them on and there’s a lot of the white-ball players in this group as well. Hopefully we can get that mindset and not just go into our shells trying to survive but actually try and take the game to them.”

In it for the Lang haul

Langer, meanwhile, has said he has no intention of leaving his post any time soon. Drafted in after the sandpaper farrago in 2018, he has had a pretty good run, retaining – but not winning – the Ashes in England, and then pulling off an unlikely T20 World Cup triumph just a few months after reports suggested his players were fed up with his famously intense methods.

“I have never thought differently, to be honest. I have been consistent with what I have said for the last four years. I love my job,” he said. “The boys are playing well, no doubt about it, it’s a great team to be involved in. So, nothing has changed from my point of view.”

Dazzler

A rumour doing the rounds is that the current crop of Australians playing county cricket – such as the newly-crowned ICC No1 Test batter Marnus Labuschagne – have a WhatsApp group they use to keep up with their progress across the shires.

The group’s name? “Stevo’s gonna get you” in honour of the evergreen all-rounder Darren Stevens, who is still taking wickets for Kent aged 45.

Stevens dismissed Glamorgan’s Labuschagne lbw for 11 once in April and once in May, a week after bowling Sussex’s Travis Head for 20.

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