He’s Australia’s World Cup bowling hero but Mitchell Starc could be about to lose his coveted Test spot once more.
Starc, who has been dropped almost as many times as picked in his 15-Test career, was named the World Cup player of the tournament in April after steering Australia to their final success over New Zealand in Melbourne.
Less than two months later the 25-year-old appears the man most likely to make way if Australia, as expected, pick two spinners for their opening Test against the West Indies in Dominica next week.
A late arrival on the Caribbean tour due to his Indian Premier League commitments, Starc will sit out this week’s three-day tour match in Antigua.
In his absence World Cup-winning teammate Josh Hazlewood has stepped up to give the selectors a real headache.
If Fawad Ahmed and Nathan Lyon are both chosen to play on the spin-friendly Windsor Park pitch in Dominica, one of Starc, Hazlewood or Mitchell Johnson will have to make way.
The latter is a shoe-in due to his status as Australia’s premier frontline paceman, leaving NSW pair Starc and Hazlewood to battle for the remaining spot.
And while Starc was recovering from his jetlag, Hazlewood was taking wickets.
Bowling from the Curtly Ambrose end, Hazlewood began his tour perfectly with two quick wickets.
In a six-over spell, he claimed 2-8 against the West Indies Cricket Board President’s XI and bowled three maidens.
More wickets should have followed later in the day, with only bad luck denying him after two inside edges flew past the stumps.
Hazlewood’s eventual return of 2-26 off 15 overs, including six maidens, presents a strong argument for inclusion next week.
Not that the big quick could be drawn on what makeup he expects for the Test team.
“Everyone’s trying to do their best in a tour game to put their name forward,” he said.
“With the conditions (in Dominica) pretty similar to here, it took a bit of a turn today, we’ll see what happens.”
HAZLEWOOD v STARC – The Test records of the two NSW quicks
Wickets: 50 at 35.44
Best bowling: 6-154
Five-wicket hauls: 2
Wickets: 12 at 29.33
Best bowling: 5-68
Five-wicket hauls: 1