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Fit Starc homes in on Ashes series

Australia's Mitchell Starc is itching for this season's Ashes series against England.
Australia's Mitchell Starc is itching for this season's Ashes series against England. Jon Super

MEMORIES of Australia's magnificent 2013-14 Ashes whitewash win will live long for their fans - and certainly be revived in the coming months.

But those images of Clarke, Johnson and Harris celebrating, of Haddin pouring a Gatorade bucket on coach Darren Lehmann, and the beers flowing freely still irk one of the men charged with winning back the Ashes this summer.

Mitchell Starc is Australia's frontline quick, has played two Ashes series in England and - when fit - has been a mainstay of the Test team since his debut nearly six years ago.

He's played eight Tests against England, for two wins, two draws and four losses.

But he's never played a home Ashes Test. And it rankles.

Last time round, in 2013, Starc was leading the Aussie attack - as he did in the away Ashes that year - before injury intervened.

 

Coach Darren Lehmann (left) celebrates the 2013-14 Ashes win with Dave Warner, with Steve Smith in the background.
Coach Darren Lehmann (left) celebrates the 2013-14 Ashes win with Dave Warner, with Steve Smith in the background. Theron Kirkman

A stress fracture in his back ended two Ashes series at once and instead of joining in the jubilant celebrations at the WACA as Mitchell Johnson removed Jimmy Anderson to secure a 150-run win and an unassailable 3-0 lead, Starc was a few kilometres away watching on TV.

He was sitting on the couch at the team hotel with fellow hobbled quick James Pattinson, having completed a rehab session in Perth that morning.

They had left the ground, fearing that if they hung around they would get in the way and spoil the celebrations.

Four years on, Starc admits it leaves a hollow feeling for one of Australian cricket's most memorable wins.

"We were watching the end of the Test on the couch and the boys won and obviously (we were) rapt for the guys but it was a little bit of an empty feeling for the two of us, not taking part," Starc said.

"Unfortunately for James he's going to miss this one again, but for me, it's really exciting to have an opportunity to hopefully be selected in my first home Ashes.

"It'll be a different feeling to the last one but hopefully the same result."

 

Mitchell Johnson, Michael Clarke and Ryan Harris celebrate an English wicket during the 2013 Boxing Day Test
Mitchell Johnson, Michael Clarke and Ryan Harris celebrate an English wicket during the 2013 Boxing Day Test JULIAN SMITH

It's exactly the same pain Pattinson is going through again this summer, with the firebrand quick ruled out of the entire Ashes with a flare-up of a back injury.

Starc is acutely aware of the mental hardship Pattinson will face in the coming months while the Test team embarks on a mission to emulate the whitewash summers of recent times.

"Obviously we can sympathise with what he's going through, being fast bowlers and all going through back issues before and obviously James has had a few more than the rest of us," Starc said.

"We tend to get around each other when someone goes down and that sort of thing.

"We're a very close group within the team, with the other fast bowlers... for us and for the guys around at the Vics it's important to keep him going and keep him positive and get him through to when he's back bowling again.

"And for someone who hasn't played a lot of cricket he's got an unbelievable record.

"It's going to take him some time now, obviously with the fresh (injury), but when he does come back we do know he's going to take wickets.

"So it's about keeping him upbeat and positive because we've all been through it and we all know what it's like to be injured and having to watch cricket."

 

Mitchell Johnson was terrifying for English batsmen during the 2013-14 Ashes series.
Mitchell Johnson was terrifying for English batsmen during the 2013-14 Ashes series. Andy Brownbill

Of course, Starc's absence in 2013 had a curious silver lining for the Australian team.

Without his injury, there's the possibility Johnson doesn't make a triumphant return to the Test team - and misses out on one of the most furious bowling performances in Ashes history.

Johnson would exorcise mental demons against England and snarl his way to a stunning 37 wickets to be crowned player of the series.

"It worked out as a blessing when Mitch (Johnson) comes in and takes 37 wickets," Starc told AAP.

"It wasn't great being on the side injured, but all the same Australia won.

"It's a very special series and having won a World up at home, and seen how special that was, you can only draw the comparisons to the Ashes being as big, so looking forward to it.

"To play an Ashes series in Australia has always been a dream as a child, to pull on the baggy green, hopefully at the SCG would be pretty cool."

Topics:  brad haddin darren lehmann mitchell johnson mitchell starc sportfeature

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