Mitchell Starc is expected to miss the first Test.
Mitchell Starc is expected to miss the first Test. Ryan Pierse

Healy warns bowlers must 'perform or perish'

CRICKET great Ian Healy has put the heat on Australia's much-vaunted fast-bowling battery ahead of the first Ashes Test starting at Edgbaston tonight.

Finally fit and ready to fire, whichever three pacemen are ultimately picked, there will be two other potential matchwinners waiting for their chance.

Last summer's standout bowler, Pat Cummins, was a no-brainer, while returning firebrand James Pattinson has leapfrogged regulars Josh Hazlewood and Mitch Starc in the pecking order.

It's now a fight between the latter pair and veteran seamer Peter Siddle for the last berth to take on the English.

"Perform or perish", says former wicket-keeper Healy, who will be part of Channel 9's coverage.

"I think we'll be quite patient with our batting line-up. I don't think we'll be very patient with our bowlers.

"You might get a second Test, but if you don't get it right ... bang, we're moving on.

"We reckon we've got a great bowling attack, let's see it for an extended period."

Pat Cummins appears assured a place in the Australian line-up for the first Test. Picture: AP
Pat Cummins appears assured a place in the Australian line-up for the first Test. Picture: AP

Of bowlers to have claimed 70 wickets or more in Tests for Australia, only Fred Spofforth (44.52) and Jack Saunders (45.13) have better strike rates than Cummins (46.82) and Pattinson (46.84).

Both have been plagued by injury and Pattinson is now hoping to emulate the rejuvenated Cummins and enjoy a sustained spell.

After undergoing spinal surgery in 2017, Pattinson has rediscovered some impressive form. The Victorian destroyed New South Wales in the Sheffield Shield final, claiming match figures of 7/71.

More recently he took 6/73 and 2/67 in his last County match for Notts, then 4/60 and 3/17 for Australia A and 1/16 and 3/19 in last week's all-Australian practice match.

James Pattinson is in line to play his first Test since 2016.
James Pattinson is in line to play his first Test since 2016.

"I want more than a tour out of him, I want a career," Healy said. "We want another five or six years out of him."

Healy is rapt to see opening batsmen Cameron Bancroft also re-emerge with a baggy green, like his fellow sandpapergate conspirators, Steve Smith and David Warner.

"I'm really looking forward to seeing how his game has developed in the last 12 months," he said. "How tight that technique is now to cope with the moving ball."

While scandals have been left in the past, suspensions completed, the hostile English crowds won't be so forgiving.

"It's going to be a super storm that they'll cop," said Healy, who was part of three successful Ashes campaigns in England (1989, 1993, and 1997).

Cameron Bancroft has impressed in County cricket.
Cameron Bancroft has impressed in County cricket.

"The team's going to have to get around these blokes. It's not going to be easy. It's going to be a lot worse than it was in the World Cup where there was a lot more neutrals in the crowd."

Healy expects the England team, although still slightly unsettled due to injury, to be full of "belief" after their World Cup win less than a month ago.

"That confidence will be flowing into their Test team," he said. "Now they've just got to establish a Test top order.

"That's where Australia has to really destabilise them ...bowling well and fielding well."