Burning questions, Mitchell Starc, Steve Smith, Alex Carey, cricket news 2024, video

Australia has only won one away Test series in the past decade, but Pat Cummins’ men have an opportunity to double that tally in Christchurch this week.

The second Test between New Zealand and Australia gets underway at Hagley Oval on Friday, with the tourists already retaining the Trans-Tasman Trophy following last week’s 172-run victory in Wellington. It marked the 13th consecutive Test series in which New Zealand failed to win back the trophy.

Meanwhile, the Black Caps have not beaten Australia on home soil since 1993, a drought they would be eager to break in the coming days.

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‘Harden up!’: The moment that made Starc | 02:13


Back in December, before the Benaud-Qadir Trophy against Pakistan, Australian captain Pat Cummins was asked whether the pace bowling cartel would need to manage their workloads ahead of after a busy home Test summer.

Before the reporter could even finish their question, the nearby Mitchell Starc started profusely shaking his head.

“No,” he interjected.

Starc is sick to death of hearing the phrase ‘bowler rotation’. Despite being one of Australia’s most prolific wicket-takers over the past decade, he has always been at risk of facing the axe due to workload management, most notably the 2012 Boxing Day Test.

Even during the recent World Cup campaign in India, he was sidelined for the final group-stage match against Bangladesh, a decision he publicly denounced.

However, courtesy of bowler-friendly wickets and shorter matches, Starc and the experienced Australian bowling cartel will play their seventh consecutive Test of the summer in Christchurch this week.

Each of Australia’s previous six Tests wrapped up in less than four days, giving Starc, Cummins and Josh Hazlewood extra time to recover between matches. Since the start of 2018, Starc has played in 30 of Australia’s 31 home Tests, missing last year’s New Year’s fixture against South Africa at the SCG with a finger injury.

Meanwhile, Starc heads into the series finale against New Zealand on the verge of eclipsing the legendary Dennis Lillee on the wicket-takers tally. Currently on 354 Test scalps, he needs a further two wickets to overtake Lillee, at which point only one Australian fast bowler will be ahead of him – Glenn McGrath.

“All those things I’ll reflect on when I finish,” Starc told Fox Cricket earlier this summer.

“I’m not one for setting numbers, goals and the rest of it. I’m still just as happy pilling on a baggy green each week, whether it’s my 83rd Test or whatever it might be.

“There’s different moments that stand out for me. Whether it’s singing the song after an Ashes win or sitting back on the last Test of the summer and reflecting on how the team’s gone. For me, that’s why I play.

“The rest of it, there’s plenty of things I’m proud of, and I’ll probably reflect on more when I don’t have to pull on the bowling boots any more.

“Hearing those things are still pretty cool and things to aim for, but I’ve never been that focused on numbers and the rest of it.”

Mitchell Starc of Australia. Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

The question beckons, what number will Starc finish on? Could he eclipse McGrath?

The New South Welshman recently asserted that Test cricket would be the last format he retires from, so the 2027 Ashes series in England isn’t completely off the table.

Starc has potentially extended his Test career by prioritising international duties and rarely pursuing opportunities in lucrative T20 leagues. He is estimated to have sacrificed nearly $10 million in additional salary over the past decade by skipping Indian Premier League tournaments.

Last year, Starc decided not to participate in the 2023 IPL to manage his workload ahead of the Ashes, a decision that paid dividends when he finished the Test series as the leading wicket-taker with 23 scalps at 27.08.

Starc has always put Australia first, which is partly why he’s on the cusp of becoming Australia’s fourth most prolific wicket-taker in the format. However, he would never begrudge someone who chased the lucrative T20 circuits over a baggy green.

“That just my personal approach to it,” Starc continued.

“They’re no right or wrong approach to any of that. People want to achieve different things.

“For me, Tests is always going to be the pinnacle. That’s been my decision, and it’s not for me to say what’s right and wrong for someone else.

“I’d like to think there’s still a generation of young boys and girls who still aspire to wear the baggy green.

“For me, it’s certainly the format that took them the longest to feel like I belonged there, so I want to play that as long as I can.”


An awkward nine-month wait looms for Australian wicketkeeper Alex Carey if he doesn’t contribute some runs in Christchurch this week.

Since last year’s Lord’s Ashes Test in England, the South Australian has averaged 21.12 with the bat, registering two fifties in ten matches. During that period, he was dropped from the national one-day team for West Australian gloveman Josh Inglis.

During last week’s series opener against New Zealand, Carey slapped a wide delivery towards short cover in both innings, departing cheaply for 10 and 3.

Meanwhile, Inglis blasted an unbeaten 136 during last week’s Sheffield Shield clash against Queenslander at the WACA, rescuing Western Australia after an early collapse.

The Christchurch contest against New Zealand is Australia’s last Test until late November, meaning there will be speculation about Carey’s spot in the team for nine months unless he overturns his form slump at Hagley Oval this week.

“We’re not going to hang him on one innings or two winnings over a period of time,” Australian coach Andrew McDonald told reporters earlier this week.

“We’ll see how that plays out.”

Apart from one costly dropped chance during last year’s fifth Ashes Test at The Oval, Carey’s glovework over the past 12 months has been near-flawless.

Meanwhile, while Inglis is expected to be playing white-ball matches against England and Pakistan towards the end of the year, the 32-year-old will get several Sheffield Shield matches to push his case ahead of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

Alex Carey of Australia leaves the field after being dismissed. Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images


Before last week’s series opener in Wellington, New Zealand’s Kane Williamson has registered six hundreds in his previous six home Tests.

The Kiwi superstar, the fastest cricketer in history to 32 Test centuries, has dominated on home soil throughout his career, but he hardly had an impact during the first Test against Australia.

After running himself out in the first innings at the Basin Reserve for a duck, Williamson nudged a delivery from Australian spinner Nathan Lyon towards leg slip, where Steve Smith swallowed a low catch.

The world’s No. 1 batter fell just three deliveries after Lyon switched to around the wicket, with the veteran tweaker hinting that Williamson’s dismissal was part of a preconceived plan.

“It’s nice when plans come off pretty well straight away,” Lyon told reporters in Wellington last week.

“I’ve noticed something in Kane’s batting against my bowling, so I tried to exploit that.”

Asked to elaborate, Lyon responded: “There’s one Test to come, mate.”

Williamson averages 55.25 in Tests, but that figure slips to 37.26 when facing the Australians. For the 33-year-old to improve those numbers, he’ll need to tame the GOAT in Christchurch.

“(Lyon is) an incredible bowler and the surface in Wellington certainly was a competitive surface. It brought the spinners into play more than we thought going into it,” Williamson said this week.

“And the quality he has, he certainly made the most of that and was quite a handful. As a player, you’re always trying to improve, get better, adapt quickly.”

Nathan Lyon of Australia celebrates after taking the wicket of Kane Williamson. Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images


Steve Smith has sunk to his lowest points tally on the ICC World Test rankings in nearly a decade, slipping to third spot.

The Australian vice-captain, who registered scores of 31 and 0 during last week’s Wellington Test, has dropped below 800 points for the first time since 2014, back when Michael Clarke was the national captain.

Former England captain Joe Root, who scored a superb century against India in Ranchi last week, has climbed to second with 799 but still sits comfortably behind New Zealand’s Kane Williamson in top spot with 870.

Smith’s career-low comes after he reinvented himself as a Test opener, a move that has to date seen mixed results. After his unbeaten 91 against the West Indies in Brisbane, the 34-year-old lazily chopped back onto his stumps for a duck during the series opener against New Zealand.

The New South Welshman currently averages 37.75 as a Test opener, which betters the likes of Cameron Bancroft (26.23), Marcus Harris (25.29) and Matthew Renshaw (33.61), while opening partner Usman Khawaja has averaged 40.00 during that same period.

However, speculation about Smith’s elevation to the top of the order will remain until he reaches triple figures as an opener, otherwise there will always be doubters who argue he never should have abandoned his No. 4 spot.

ICC Men’s Test batting rankings

1. Kane Williamson (NZ) – 870

2. Joe Root (ENG) – 799

3. Steve Smith (AUS) – 789

4. Daryl Mitchell (NZ) – 771

5. Babar Azam (PAK) – 760

6. Usman Khawaja (AUS) – 755

7. Dimuth KARUNARATNE (SL) – 750

8. Virat Kohli (AUS) – 744

9. Harry Brook (ENG) – 743

10. Yashasvi JAISWAL (IND) – 727

Green locked in as permanent No.4 | 02:07


Dead rubber or not, there’s still plenty on the line for Australia in Christchurch this week.

World Test Championship points are a prized commodity in the modern cricket landscape, and the defending champions will be eager to retain the mace in 2025.

However, Australia finds itself in an awkward position having lost January’s second Test against the West Indies in Brisbane. Courtesy of the unexpected defeat and over-rate penalties from the Ashes campaign in England, Pat Cummins’ men are currently third on the WTC standings with a 59.09 percentage, behind India and New Zealand.

Defeating the Black Caps at Hagley Oval this week would not only push Australia up to second spot, but also boost the team’s percentage a considerable amount.

Each Test series in the World Test Championship is valued the same, so one Test victory in a two-match campaign against New Zealand is worth more than two wins during an Ashes series.

Australia’s remaining fixtures in the WTC cycle are a five-match Test campaign against India at home and a two-Test tour of Sri Lanka, neither of which is a walk in the park.

To boost their odds of qualifying for the 2025 final at Lord’s, victory against the Black Caps this week could prove decisive.

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