Ashes 2013-14: Australia’s brilliant bowlers have chemistry to burn the best | Mike Selvey

Great attacks feed from one another with styles that compliment – and Australia's Ashes-winning aggressors are in stunning form

The clock on the grand old Members Pavilion at the Sydney Cricket Ground was showing five minutes to midday when it happened. Ryan Harris, the mechanical man of Australian bowling, a bowler so chronometrically accurate that he might have been made by watchmakers in Switzerland, sent down a half-volley. No really he did. The 43,000 people basking in the sun at the SCG saw it. Ben Stokes, the effervescent young tyro of this revamped England team spotted it as well. Stokes shows the bowler the full face of the bat, a good thing (no bowler likes to see defensive shots off his own bowling come back at him) and here it came down to drill the ball away to the long off boundary.

Harris shook his head as if scarcely he could believe what he had just done. It had to have been an aberration. An enquiry should be set up. But then he went and did it again in his next over, and this time Gary Ballance put it away through extra cover. No, we thought, this is no aberration, this is part of a cunning plan, because Harris lands the ball, on demand, in an area roughly the size of a napkin. That is the standard we have come to expect this last couple of months.

A few days ago, in the run-up to the final Test, Glenn McGrath was asked how, in the scheme of what had gone before, he ranked the current Australian attack of Mitchell Johnson, Harris and Peter Siddle. Even allowing for McGrath's modesty it is a very strong call given that he, Brett Lee, and Jason Gillespie – not to mention Shane Warne of course – managed a small matter of 1,840 Test wickets between them. But the Australian bowling in this series has been consistently brilliant. At their best, as this has been, great attacks feed from one another with styles that compliment. The opposition are given no respite, the captain able to call on each and every one on demand in the knowledge that no one is to be hidden away. Michael Clarke has at his disposal a great balance.

First there is Johnson, extremely rapid left arm, faster than anyone else in the world. Next, Harris, a master of his length and line and no slouch. Finally, Siddle, indefatigable and fuelled on bananas, relentlessly disciplined. Together they have consistently knocked over the England top order and blown away the lower: it has been quite ruthless. Johnson has led the way with 34 wickets at a bargain basement price of 14.02 runs each.

Then comes Harris and Lyon with 17 apiece at 23.52 and 28.7 respectively, followed by Siddle with 16 at 22.62. To back them up is the ubiquitous Watto, who trudges reluctantly back to his mark looking for all the world like a fellow on his way back from the pub to tell his wife that he has just been given his P45, but who then trundles in amiably and just blocks up an end while the enforcers have a breather.

The miracle is that they have managed to stay together for although Johnson is used in short four over bursts of energy, and Siddle would run at a brick wall all day in the cause, Harris always seems one tweak away from total breakdown. He is a throwback to the day when bowlers were allowed to be stocky rather than slender, a muscular four-square fellow with shoulders like those on a gridiron footballer and a big engine to stand the shock of bowling. He rocks in on dodgy knees, flings himself into his action and keeps his fingernails short by scraping them on the ground in his follow through. But the fluidity of his wrist action, a controlled flick that helps send the ball away from the right hander or produces what the old golf broadcaster Henry Longhurst would have called 'a corker', such as the one that rattled the stumps of Alastair Cook in Perth, is sublime. To keep him going for nine successive Ashes matches has taken some hard work on the part of the Australian medical team. If only, they might think now, we had trusted his fitness for the first Test at Trent Bridge last summer. He might properly have nailed England on that first flirty morning.

We knew of Harris's capabilities well enough before this series though, but although he gave a sighter during the one-day matches at the end of the last series, the transformation of Johnson from figure of fun (although not so funny for him that he hadn't at times been reduced to tears in the dressing room) to the tormentor of this series has been remarkable. There are some who put it down to his moustache, as if it is akin to the philosopher's stone rather than merely a bit of comedy facial hair that he is now destined to keep. The key, however, has been his run-up, which has been changed from straight, to a slight angle, to keep his action in check. His pace would be difficult to handle anyway, but his low arm makes it harder to pick the ball up from the action, while he tends to skid on to the bat as well.

Shortly, Australia will be going to South Africa where they will encounter what is reckoned to be the most potent pace attack in the world. Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander will do well to better the pace bowling produced in this series. Batsmen on both sides will be in for a torrid time. © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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