A well-grassed wicket might have been the last thing Mitchell Starc expected to see after landing in Abu Dhabi but Australia’s pace spearhead was loath to get his hopes up ahead of the second test against Pakistan.
The left-armer was made to toil on a typically lifeless pitch in the drawn first test in Dubai, grabbing only a solitary wicket while conceding 108 runs for more than 40 overs’ work in broiling heat.
So it would have been understandable had he hoped some relief was at hand when a green-top was revealed after the covers were pulled off at Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium.
Instead, Starc felt it all just a desert mirage.
“It might be completely different tomorrow when they cut the grass off,” Starc said. “If we were playing on it today, the fast bowlers would be pretty happy with the covering of grass.
“A lot of us expect that grass to be gone by tomorrow and probably even less come game day.”
The grass was still plentiful enough for selectors to consider picking a third seamer, captain Tim Paine added.
“Looking at it now, if that was in Australia you would be playing three fast bowlers,” he told reporters on Monday, the eve of the second test.
“With the heat around in the next 24 hours, I’m sure it will change pretty quickly.”
There was some talk of resting Starc for the second test to preserve him for the four-match series against India in the home summer after he bowled a heavy load in the first innings in Dubai.
Starc was in no mood to rest up, though.
“Hope not,” he said. “I don’t know what the team is going to be like but I won’t be putting my hand up for a rest.
“I’m feeling pretty good, it’s only my first game back for a while as well so I’m feeling pretty fresh and pretty happy with how the ball’s coming out.”
A strike bowler more used to crashing through in short, sharp spells rather than wearing batsmen down with sustained pressure, Starc said he had learned to tone down his natural aggression in the United Arab Emirates.
While one wicket in Dubai was small beer compared to his usual hauls in the southern hemisphere, Starc embraced the ‘workhorse’ role more associated with pace partner Peter Siddle and kept the run rate stingy.
Should the pitch retain its grass, Starc and Siddle could be joined by a debutant paceman in Michael Neser or Brendan Doggett.
Paine said the batting order could also be changed, though there seems little need to move around the new opening duo of Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja, who piled on the runs in a pair of strong opening stands in Dubai.
“We may consider tweaking (the batting order),” said Paine.
“I know guys had their individual meetings yesterday and all that stuff was discussed.
“Again, we’ll come tomorrow and make a call on the team and batting order and stuff, probably tomorrow.”