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England tailenders facing a Starc reality down under

Mitchell Starc has his eye on England’s lower-order batsmen
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Mitchell Starc's 2017 Test record is underwhelming – seven wickets in three matches – but Australia’s left-arm strike bowler looks primed for a big finish to the year.

Two of Starc’s three Tests were on spin-friendly pitches in India but given the lack of searing pace in the England bowling attack, the Ashes surfaces are expected to be quick.

Starc warmed up for the series with some devastating displays for New South Wales in the Sheffield Shield, taking a career-best 8-73 in a day/night match against South Australia and claiming hat-tricks in both innings of the victory against Western Australia.

In 2013-14, Mitchell Johnson’s pace traumatised England’s lower-order batsmen and it may be a similar story when Starc comes on to polish off the tail.

Four of his eight victims against South Australia were bowled, beaten for pace, while his two hat-tricks came against numbers nine, ten and 11 in the first innings and six, nine and ten second time around.

That ruthlessness against the tail makes Starc a solid favourite to be the leading wicket-taker in the series. He claimed 50 scalps in eight Tests in 2016 and, while he has struggled with injuries in the past, there are fitness doubts over fast bowlers on both sides.

Only Stuart Broad took more wickets than Starc’s 18 in the 2015 series and the left-armer, now 27, looks a far better Test bowler these days.

Broad’s Ashes record is excellent – 84 wickets in 22 games including the astonishing 8-15 at Trent Bridge in 2015 – so it is a surprise to see him priced up as 11-10 outsider in a wickets match bet with James Anderson.

Both men played all five Tests on the 2013-14 tour, with Broad winning the match bet 21-14, and the 35-year-old Anderson may struggle to hit the heights of the 2010-11 Ashes, in which he took seven more wickets than any other bowler in the series.

Spinners Nathan Lyon and Moeen Ali are a fair way down the top series wicket-taker betting although neither should be written off.

Lyon topped the wickets charts in Australia’s home series against India in 2014-15, claiming 23 scalps – eight more than his closest rival – and Moeen landed the spoils against South Africa in the summer, taking 25 wickets in four Tests.

Betfair offer 5-2 that a bowler takes a ten-wicket haul in a match and Paddy Power go 14-1 about a hat-trick being taken.

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Starc warmed up for the series with devastating displays in the Sheffield Shield, taking a career-best 8-73 against South Australia
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