PERTH, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 18: Mitchell Starc of Australia looks on during day five of the Third Test match during the 2017/18 Ashes Series between Australia and England at WACA on December 18, 2017 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Australia’s bowlers were made to toil in the final Test against India in Sydney, suffering at the hands of Cheteshwar Pujara to confirm their series defeat to the tourists. It was the first time an Indian team had triumphed Down Under, delivering a 2-1 victory over Tim Paine’s men.

Virat Kohli did not need to be outstanding in the series as Pujara took centre stage, scoring 521 runs, which featured three centuries, including his brilliant knock of 193 to ensure that his team could not be toppled at the SCG.

Pujara’s patience wore down the Australia attack of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins, who were devastating the previous year to guide their side to their Ashes triumph over England. Against India, they were largely ineffective, although Cummins was able to leave the series with a decent record of 14 wickets at a price of 27.78 runs.

Starc drew the majority of the criticism, especially with his performances with the new ball. Shane Warne took aim at the left-arm quick for his lack of potency at the top of the innings. The 28-year-old was on point against England, but his statistics since then have been largely uninspiring for a supposed strike bowler.

With the defence of the Ashes looming in the summer, the Baggy Greens need Starc to rediscover his peak form. Steve Smith should return to the fold to ease their batting woes, which have plagued the team since the former skipper was suspended by Cricket Australia for the sandpaper incident.

However, unless their senior paceman is firing on all cylinders, Australia will face an uphill task to hold on to the urn, with the team currently backed at 7/4 in the latest cricket betting odds to win the series. The Baggy Greens have not won a Test series on English soil since 2001, and they’ll be hard-pressed to see victory in 2019 without the level of play seen from their fast bowlers Down Under in the previous five-match contest between the two teams.

Starc did get the better of England’s batsmen in the 2017/18 series, although the majority of his scalps came in the latter stages of the innings mopping up the tail. He, along with Cummins, Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon, worked effectively as a unit and combined were able to put England to the sword.

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Hazlewood has also not been as effective over the last year, which put a huge amount of strain on Cummins and Lyon to carry the attack against India. Cummins was impressive and has been throughout his career, with injuries blighting his path to the top of Test cricket. Lyon has become the reliable factor in the attack without possessing the potency of the elite spinners in the game.

Hazlewood’s style of bowling suits English conditions, although he was not overwhelmingly productive on his first tour. With more experience under his belt, Australia will be hopeful that he can match England’s master of swing James Anderson.

Starc is the wildcard that could swing the series much in the mould of Mitchell Johnson. Johnson was mercurial and failed to perform in England, although elsewhere when he was on song he was unstoppable. Starc too has struggled for his peak form in England; unless he can find an answer to his woes over the coming months, he could find himself out of the team and tagged as a one-dimensional bowler.

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