History made as Starc takes second hat-trick in Shield match
MITCHELL Starc has exploded out of the blocks in his bid to emulate Mitchell Johnson this summer, pulling off a remarkable second hat-trick for the match to create history and take his Ashes tune-up to the next level.
For the first time in over a century of Australian cricket, Starc claimed the rarest bowling milestone not once but twice, and with three blazing deliveries to finish a landslide NSW victory he gave the country's feared fast bowling attack all the momentum in their quest to bring down England.
The Australian Test attack dressed in NSW uniforms flexed their muscles by tearing through Western Australia like a hurricane late on day four of their Sheffield Shield match at Hurstville Oval.
In the over before tea, WA's all-star batting line-up hadn't even lost a wicket for 179 runs and the game appeared destined for a draw. That was until lightning struck twice and Australia's reverse-swing demons took hold.
Starc (seven wickets for the match), Josh Hazlewood (six) and Pat Cummins (four) knocked over the 10 second innings wickets for just 44 runs to secure a landslide 171-run triumph with 10 overs to spare.
Steve Smith was gobsmacked at the quality of Starc's achievement - blazing through the tail without mercy for both hat-tricks - but the skipper reserved rare praise for Hazlewood who he described as a "genius" and a "superstar."
Australia have their problems in the batting department, but as forecast by 2013-14 Ashes whitewash hero Ryan Harris, this fast bowling attack is the stuff of dreams and may be better than the Johnson-led attack from four years ago.
Smith with a confidence-boosting hundred of his own on Tuesday - inspired by putting a pen mark on his handle where he should hold the bat - said the crushing Shield triumph was the ideal Ashes warm-up for Australia.
Not since Jimmy Matthews in a 1912 Test against South Africa, and Albert Trott in a 1907 county game in England has an Australian gone double hat-trick in a first-class fixture.
"That doesn't surprise me. They're not easy to come by. Phenomenal effort," said Smith.
"Hoff obviously played in this game and I thought he bowled like an absolute genius.
"He's a superstar.
"I think Starcy has probably taken a little bit more time to get going and get some rhythm but the back end of today showed why he's world class. Patty Cummins has had a couple of good games as well so they're up and going and bowling really well so that is positive signs for us.
"They're firing and fresh and ready to go."
Smith took the catch to finish the match and complete Starc's moment in history, with WA tailenders Jason Behrendorff and David Moody having the misfortune of being involved in both hat-tricks.
Starc - who had never taken a hat-trick in his entire cricketing life before this game - celebrated wildly upon dismissing last man Jono Wells.
Smith blasted a beautifully timed 127 to lead into NSW's match-winning declaration of 6-300 - and after admitting pre-match that he'd "forgotten how to hold the bat", Australia's batting leader rediscovered his golden form when it mattered.
But not without a little help.
"Believe it or not at one point I (marked) it on my bat with the pen. I had to readjust my grip and it moved a bit so it didn't work. But I think I'm back and ready to go," said Smith.
"It gives me a lot of confidence. I needed some time in the middle so it was nice to get a few in the first innings (76) when it was a little bit tougher and when the wicket flattened out a bit it was nice to spend some time in the middle, face some reverse swing bowling and some short stuff
"I faced pretty much a bit of everything which is a really good lead-up into what's coming up in the summer. I felt really good, felt like I knew where I was hitting the ball again which was a big plus so hopefully it's a big summer."