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Cricket news - Unassuming Behrendorff steps out of the Starc shadow

Jason Behrendorff finished with bowling figures of 10-0-44-5

"Can I answer Starcy's last question?"

Jason Behrendorff had just swapped places with Mitchell Starc to face the print media during a mixed zone in The Oval basement. As a miffed journalist continued to argue with the Australian media manager over being refused a question at Starc, a smiling Behrendorff was ready to step in for his more high-profile colleague. And the Western Australian left-armer could even see the funny side when there was no question coming his way.

"Oh, looks like he doesn't have a question now," he said, before joining everyone around in laughter. It had been a tough day out for Behrendorff against Sri Lanka, a tough initiation into the World Cup, having been taken apart by the Sri Lankan top-order before redeeming himself in the middle overs. But he hardly seemed perturbed by being literally lost in his more illustrious fellow left-arm pacer's shadow. That evening in London, he'd also sounded equally self-effacing when asked to compare Starc's role in the team to his own. "His is an attacking role, and mine's more a defensive one at times," the 29-year-old had said.

It was Behrendorff asking all the questions at Lord's on Tuesday (June 25) though. And the England batsmen on most occasions weren't as keen as he'd been at The Oval to step up and answer them. In the end, it was he who finished with a five-wicket haul. But it's likely that Starc's scything through the English middle-order is what will get highlighted that much more. It's Behrendorff who arguably produced the ball of the day, the late in-swinging full delivery that cleaned-up James Vince in his first over. But Starc's yorker to a well-set Ben Stokes is what will make the overall World Cup highlights reel.

It's rather obvious why though. Behrendorff's bowling simply isn't sexy enough. Not when compared to Starc anyway. He isn't fast enough. He doesn't swing it as prodigiously. He doesn't get batsmen backing away - even the opposition captain on occasion - from him. He doesn't make life too uncomfortable for them often enough. And even his action isn't aesthetically pleasing enough. If Starc cruises in effortlessly like he's moon-walking forward, Behrendorff stumbles in like he's trying to catch a bus.

It's no surprise then that, though just three months apart in age, the two are at extreme ends of the spectrum in terms of their international careers. Behrendorff only made his ODI debut earlier this year against India in Sydney, and his match-winning effort against England at Lord's was only his 8th match in this format. Starc, on the other hand, is already into his ninth year in international cricket and has a well-established reputation of being one of the most cerebral wicket-takers in the history of 50-over cricket.

Their paths to international cricket too couldn't have been more different. Starc grew up in Baulkham Hills, in the western suburbs of Sydney, being coached by his father Paul alongside his brother Brandon, a future Olympic Games high-jumper. Like most in that part of the city, it was an outdoorsy and laidback childhood.

Behrendorff, meanwhile, spent his young life in Canberra as part of a very close-knit and highly religious family - being involved with the church for a major part of his life himself. He's still known to pray for himself before every game, and the only real connection between the two wreckers of England at Lord's, apart from their left-arm pace, would be - like with Starc, Behrendorff too has a brother who has represented Australia in international sport, the comparatively lesser fancied sport of handball.

While Starc rose through the ranks at a speed as rapid as his own with the ball -getting his Baggy Green at the age of 21, Behrendorff has endured many years of injury and time in the wilderness before even being recognized as a potential Australian cricketer. He even had to move base to Perth, taking the tough decision of being away from his parents, to further his cricketing ambitions. His journey to the honours board at Lord's has been a winding, and at times uphill ride.

The differences between the two extend to their personal lives too. As he knocked out Root and Morgan with the new-ball, Starc's equally high-profile wife Alyssa Healy was tweeting about how he was ribbed by an Englishman during breakfast about his diet in the morning and how that had only egged her beau on. Behrendorff's wife Juvelle is a personal stylist over in Perth, and keeps as low a profile as her cricketer husband.

Their most treasured cricketing picture till date is said to be one with their two wedding bands placed over an old cricket ball, with which Behrendorff had taken his first five-wicket haul in club cricket. And while Starc was named the man of the tournament at the 2015 World Cup, the closest the Behrendorffs came to the trophy was as part of a promotional event where they got to pose with it in a hot air balloon alongside then Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

There were some who'd questioned his selection in the World Cup squad, especially with Starc already in there. In the end, the roles they played in the taking down of England were not too dissimilar. They both struck twice in the early overs, and then returned with the older ball to clean up the mess. They both cleaned up batsmen with swinging-full deliveries, and also got one each with balls that seamed off the wicket - the delivery he had Moeen Ali caught behind with was as eye-catching as the one for Vince. It's just that one looked better than the other while doing so.

Not like the unassuming Behrendorff has ever made bones about being the less glamorous of the two. That same evening at The Oval, he'd been asked about what he could learn about fast bowling from Starc.

"How important it is to bowl 145-150 clips an hour," he'd joked. When asked on a podcast recently about what his fastest delivery in cricket had been, Behrendorff had recalled the time he'd been clocked at 147 kph during a Big Bash League game at the Adelaide Oval, and then said, "That had to be a mistake. I know I can never be as quick as Mitchell Starc."

But on a day Behrendorff ended up with the final word, he proved to the world that he doesn't need to be.

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