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‘Very humbling’ – Starc on reaching 350 Test wickets and closing in on Dennis Lillee

Mitchell Starc acknowledged that it was “humbling” to pass 350 wickets as a summer of landmarks continued for Australia’s Test attack, but he will only really sit back and reflect on personal achievements when he hangs up his boots.
After Nathan Lyon’s 500th Test wicket along with Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood crossing 250 this season, it was Starc’s turn to tick off another landmark on the opening day at the Gabba. When he had Alick Athanaze caught behind, he became the fifth Australian to 350 Test wickets. He finished the day with 4 for 68 and is now four wickets away from overtaking Dennis Lillee’s tally (355), which would make him the country’s second-most prolific quick behind Glenn McGrath (563).

“Numbers are nice, [it’s] something else to reflect on when I’m all done. Still got some wickets to take,” Starc said. “Nice to have an impact today, go past that one…Gaz [Lyon] was saying there’s another 150 to go.

“They are all nice things to tick off and very humbling [to close in on Lillee] but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. Need 20 wickets to win and we’ll all reflect on [the landmarks] when we are finished, sitting around with a beer at a golf course somewhere. At the moment we are just enjoying our cricket as a group of players.”

Early in the season, during the opening Test against Pakistan in Perth, Starc made some mid-match adjustments and said he had been searching for “that perfect feeling” throughout the summer. He was pleased with his rhythm and the pace he was able to generate on the opening day in Brisbane.

Three of Starc’s inroads came in the first session when Australia made good use of the new ball to leave West Indies 64 for 5. But life became tougher for the bowlers after that as the pink ball softened and it wasn’t until the second new ball that Starc struck again to remove Kavem Hodge.

Starc’s record with the pink ball is outstanding – he now has 65 wickets at 18.09 from 12 day-night Tests – and he has come to believe that the key to the format is the pitch and its impact on the ball. This Brisbane surface, he said, was a little on the firm side to be ideal, which meant the ball became soft within the first hour, whereas Adelaide, which traditionally hosts the day-night encounter in Australia, has a more forgiving pitch.

“It comes down to the wicket, which I think Adelaide has got right,” he said. “Because of the ball, we know it goes softer at certain stages depending on the wicket, think there’s a certain cushion to what they make at Adelaide, which is why it’s been such a good pink-ball Test in Adelaide.

“Think this wicket is pretty similar to the game we played Pakistan [in 2016-17]. In that game [the ball] went soft pretty early, there were a lot of dead patches where it was hard to score and wasn’t much in the wicket for the bowlers. Pakistan were about 450 chasing 490. Feels a bit like a similar wicket where it’s a little bit too firm. Think it would be a fantastic red-ball wicket, but probably too firm for the pink ball.”

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