Sydney - Australia are relishing the prospect of uniting
their "big four" pace attack for the first time at the Champions
Trophy - and sending a message to England ahead of the Ashes.
Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and James
Pattinson are all fit and poised to bowl together given conducive conditions at
the tournament in England and Wales.
In Australia they are seen as potentially the most potent
pace quartet since the mighty West Indies teams of the 1970s, '80s and '90s.
Injuries have prevented the strike bowlers from playing
together in the same Australian squad and coach Darren Lehmann is licking his
lips at the opportunity to let them loose.
"It's the first time we've had the big four
available," Lehmann said.
"It would be great to see them go at it and see how
they go. They're quality players and we've got a quality squad."
Injury-bedevilled Cummins is finally fit and playing
consistent cricket for the first time in his career after overcoming a series
of back stress fractures, while Pattinson has returned from shin and back
Starc, who has recovered from a foot injury that cut short
his India Test tour in March, said he was excited by the prospect of combining
with his fellow speedsters at the Champions Trophy.
"We've had our issues with injury but Patty's (Cummins)
only just turned 24 - I'm 27 and I'm the oldest - so we've still got plenty of
time to wreak havoc on batsmen around the world," Starc said ahead of his
departure for England.
"Hopefully that starts with the Champions Trophy and
then onwards to the Ashes (in Australia) later in the year."
Former Test batsman Adam Voges, playing English county
cricket with Middlesex, said anything was possible for Australia if the
foursome can stay fit and available.
"If they've got all four to choose from then it is
going to be incredibly exciting to watch, maybe not to face," Voges said.
"It's a luxury Australia hasn't had for a while."
Australia's participation at the Champions Trophy has been
clouded by an acrimonious stand-off in pay talks between the players' union and
Cricket Australia with a looming June 30 expiry of their current financial
Lehmann has conceded the bitter dispute will be a
distraction for Australia, but he has played down any potential boycott of the
Ashes, as suggested by some players.
Another pressing issue for Lehmann will be where big-hitting
Chris Lynn fits into the batting line-up, if at all.
Lynn was in devastating form for Kolkata Knight Riders at
the top of the order in this year's Indian Premier League, scoring 295 runs at
an average of 49.16 and a strike rate of 180.98.
"First, he's got to get selected in the eleven and the
captain (Steve Smith) will tell him where he's going to bat," Lehmann
"We've had discussions. He's an excitement
The experienced David Warner and Aaron Finch open the
innings at one-day level, but with neither Shaun Marsh nor Usman Khawaja
selected in the squad, Lynn looks as close as he ever has to getting his chance
at an extended opportunity.
Australia, grouped with New Zealand, England and Bangladesh,
get their Champions Trophy campaign under way against the Black Caps at
Edgbaston on June 2.
The Australians are bidding for an unprecedented third
Trophy after winning back-to-back in 2006 and 2009.