Australia’s “scary” fast bowlers are “more nasty” than Mitchell Johnson, skipper Steve Smith said on Wednesday, echoing repeated warnings to England ahead of the opening Ashes Test in Brisbane.
Much mention has been made of the aggressive Johnson’s devastating bowling in the 2013-2014 Ashes, when he took 37 wickets in Australia’s 5-0 series whitewash.
Smith, who has personal experience of facing current quicks Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins in the nets, warned England to expect another white-knuckle ride on a pace-friendly Gabba pitch.
“It’s been exciting watching them bowl in the nets, I think back to 2013 when Mitchell (Johnson) was bowling in the nets, these guys are just as nasty, if not more nasty to be honest,” Smith told reporters on Wednesday.
“A couple of net sessions I have had against Cummins and Starc have been quite scary, so that is really exciting for us.”
Smith, who has the task of rotating his front-line bowlers to keep them fresh, says Starc, Cummins and Josh Hazlewood have been building up to the Gabba opener for some time and are raring to go.
“The bowlers have certainly been looking forward to this series,” Smith said.
“It’s no real secret that the three we have got in this Test match have been on the radar for a very long time, they’ve been working up toward this.
“They are here now, they’re fresh, they’re bowling fast and I think it is a really exciting time for this team.”
Off-spinner Nathan Lyon, who provoked a storm when he said Australia were out to “end careers” for England players, will be a key man to relieve the pace trio and allow them some rest.
“I always like having the (all-rounder) option but with England having a lot of left-handers Nathan Lyon is going to be an important bowler for us,” Smith said.
“He’s been bowling particularly well and he’s probably been bowling as well as I have seen him bowl.”
– Maxwell on standby –
Smith, who has been urged to bowl more of his part-time leg-spinners during the series, said he was also prepared to trundle down some overs to help out.
“They’re actually coming out pretty well, but hopefully I’m not needed too often but if I am I’ll definitely bowl myself,” he said.
“Obviously, if I need to bowl myself a little bit to give those guys a bit more of a rest so that they can come on and have that quick burst then that’s where we’ll have to go.
“But they (pacemen) are quite comfortable bowling reasonably long spells and keeping their pace up so that is really good for us.”
The Australians have summoned all-rounder Glenn Maxwell to be on standby if key opener David Warner has any further problems with a neck injury suffered during training on Tuesday.
Should a reshuffle be needed, number six Shaun Marsh will open the innings with fellow West Australian and Test debutant Cameron Bancroft. But Smith is confident Warner will play.
“He’s improved a fair bit over the last 24 hours and hopefully he can keep improving and be 100 percent at match time,” Smith said.
“He’ll be OK. It’s part and parcel of playing cricket. Guys have injuries every now and then and have little niggles.”
Australia – David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith (capt), Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon.