Starc steals spotlight as Smith returns against Derbyshire
Mitchell Starc enhanced his prospects of selection for the fourth Ashes Test with three wickets in an over on the opening day of Australia’s tour match at Derbyshire.
The left-arm paceman has been a conspicuous absentee in the series so far, despite being the leading wicket-taker at the World Cup earlier this summer, but he caught the eye as Steve Smith made a low-key return from concussion.
After Matt Critchley was strangled down the leg side, Starc then rearranged the stumps of Alfie Gleadall and Tony Palladino as Derbyshire were all out for 172, with Leus du Plooy contributing an important 86 for the hosts.
While numbers seven, eight and nine succumbing in quick order to Starc will not have England quaking, he bowled with enough purpose in his second spell to suggest he could come into the reckoning at Old Trafford next week.
With frontline fast bowlers Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and James Pattinson among those rested, Michael Neser also shone, taking two in two balls en route to figures of three for 31 before Australia closed on 77 without loss.
Marcus Harris (52 not out) took the lead in an unbroken stand alongside Usman Khawaja (18no), who was standing in as captain for Tim Paine. The pair are thought to be vying for an opener’s spot alongside David Warner in Manchester.
Khawaja offered a tough caught and bowled chance to teenager Gleadall on 15 late in the day, but otherwise the Australia openers were untroubled.
The tourists were back in action four days on from their dramatic one-wicket defeat at Headingley, which Smith missed as a result of a delayed concussion following a vicious bouncer from Jofra Archer at Lord’s.
However, after Derbyshire won the toss and decided to bat first, Smith was restricted to a fielding brief at second slip either side of bowling an over before lunch containing a mixture of off-spin and his customary leg-breaks.
There was some mirth when his practice delivery sailed over the head of Peter Siddle, and his first ball was close to being a beamer while his second was a drag down that was dismissively swatted away by Du Plooy.