Debutant Richardson makes himself at home

Jhye Richardson appeals unsuccessfully for an lbw
Australia v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Brisbane, 1st day January 24, 2019

Amid all the upheaval in Australian cricket, the one constant until this week in Brisbane had been the composition of their Test attack on home soil. When Jhye Richardson claimed Dinesh Chandimal for his maiden Test wicket it was the first scalp by an Australian bowler outside the big four on their own turf since Steve O'Keefe removed Wahab Riaz at the SCG in January 2017.

It has been different overseas, where conditions and injuries have demanded changes, but for nine consecutive outings - taking in an Ashes tour and the recent India series - Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon had not been separated. Hazlewood's back injury put paid to that run continuing and it was a decision between the experienced workhorse in Peter Siddle, who had been 12th man throughout the India series, or the young, skiddy pace of Richardson who was added as the replacement.

There may be a debate about Will Pucovski missing out on a spot in the middle order, but it was clear early in the first session of the day-night Test that Richardson, with just 11 first-class matches to his name, superseding Siddle was the right decision.

He nearly had a wicket with the first ball of his Test career when Lahiru Thirimanne worked one just wide of short leg (incidentally a player who is part of that select group, Richard Illingworth, is one of the umpires at the Gabba) but it never felt as though success was far away. It came in his sixth over - a spell of that length was impressive in itself on an oppressive day - when Chandimal was squared up on off stump, sending an edge to second slip, which Joe Burns took sharply to his left.

Before that, the last time a bowler who doesn't play for New South Wales (also O'Keefe's state) took a Test wicket in Australia was when Jackson Bird removed Mohammad Amir at the MCG in late 2016. And if we want to get technical even Bird, who plays for Tasmania, was born in New South Wales. So the previous home Test wicket taken by someone with no links to state was Mitchell Marsh removing Quinton de Kock at Perth in 2016. (South Australia's Joe Mennie took his lone Test wicket against South Africa in Hobart but, too, was born in NSW)

The point of all this is that Australia's bowling attack has not had many changes at home. And it wouldn't have changed here if Hazlewood had been fit. Yet having their hand forced may have turned out to be a good thing. None of them would have been dropped, but a natural refreshing of an attack can bring longer-term gains.

Richardson looked right at home in it. His early forays into one-day cricket suggested he had something - even though he took a hammering. along with all his team-mates, in England last year - and nabbing Virat Kohli in every match of the one-day series will have done his prospects no harm. Of equal relevance, though, was the 8 for 47 he took in the Sheffield Shield earlier this season against New South Wales, a match that also included a notable unbeaten century for fellow debutant Patterson.

He is short by the standard of Australian fast bowlers, who have traditionally been associated with height and Richardson uses that to his advantage having grown up admiring Dale Steyn. "He's a similar sort of build, the nontraditional fast bowler, quite skinny and not as tall as anyone else, he proved that he could be a class bowler with that sort of build and bowl at extreme pace," Richardson said. "Breaking the stereotype of fast bowlers is what I've been trying to do."

Richardson certainly has a sharp bouncer, but his rewards came from pitching the ball up. Following Chandimal's edge, he produced a gem to defeat Sri Lanka's best batsman Kusal Mendis - the ball swinging late to completely square him up and crash into the stumps - then found the edge of Dhananjaya de Silva as the ball continued to shape.

At the same time as breaking up the cartel, his performance also shone a light on the hierarchy of Australia's attack. He was given the new ball ahead of Cummins, the pick of the pacemen against India, and his natural fuller length was ideal for making the most of the movement on offer.

Starc, who came under pressure for his performances in the second half of the India series, was the least impressive of the trio although his 200th Test wicket did arrive when Suranga Lakmal edged low to second slip, 40 overs after he thought he had it when Thirimanne was saved from being lbw by the DRS. If Richardson builds on his impressive beginning and Hazlewood returns to fitness, there will be some interesting decisions to make for the Ashes, both in terms of who plays and who takes the new ball. Even if he stays in the side, does it keep going to Starc by default? If he bowls both sides of the wicket as he did here, the answer is probably not.

At least the selectors can be comforted that Australia's pace-bowling resources show deeper stocks than the batting. There is good competition to join the established three in England later this year with Chris Tremain unlucky to be overlooked for this match and Scott Boland in the mix. Richardson, though, has surely booked his ticket already.

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