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Missing some swing? Mitchell Starc struggling with ball after sandpaper scandal

The biggest casualty of Australian cricket's ball tampering scandal doesn't appear to be banned duo Steve Smith and David Warner, but bowling spearhead Mitchell Starc, following another lackluster display with the ball on the first day of the day-night Test with Sri Lanka in Brisbane.

After Australia had been found to be using sandpaper to alter the condition of the ball during last year's Test with South Africa in Cape Town, both captain Smith and vice-captain Warner were handed 12-month bans, while opening batsman Cameron Bancroft was stood down for nine months as well.

Since then, Australia's on-field results have plummeted, recently surrendering both Test and ODI series against the travelling Indian side, having earlier lost to Pakistan 1-0 in the UAE.

While its easy to point at the absences of both Smith and Warner, Starc's lack of impact with the ball, especially in Test cricket, has become apparent, with the left-arm quick a shadow of his former self.

Before the ball tampering scandal, Starc had taken 180 wickets at 27.49, with nine five-wicket hauls and career best figures of 6/50.

Since the revelations of Australian tampering though, Starc's career figures make for much different reading.

In the eight Test matches following Cape Town, Starc has only managed 21 wickets, coming at an average of 40.28, with best figures of 3/40 against India.

That's not the only proof that Starc struggling to torment batsmen the way that he had become synonymous for.

On the opening day against Sri Lanka in Brisbane yesterday, Starc finished with figures of 2/41 from his 12 overs, while debutant Jhye Richardson claimed an impressive haul of 3/26 from his 14 overs, overshadowing his more accomplished teammate.

In Australia's last home Test series before the tampering scandal, the 2017-18 Ashes against England, Starc took 22 wickets at an average of 23.54. 

Starc played four of the five Tests in that series, missing only the dour draw in Melbourne as Australia cruised to a 4-0 series win to regain the urn.

However, once again we can read that the Aussie spearhead isn't the same since the tampering scandal. In Australia's most recently completed home series against India, Starc could only take 13 wickets at 34.53. Unsurprisingly, India won that contest 2-1.

While it may be easy to stick the boot in to Starc following his poor form with the red ball, it's also worth noting the mitigating circumstances of his last eight Tests, played in the batsman friendly conditions of the UAE against Pakistan, and a four-Test home series against India, against arguably the world's most devastating batting line-up.

Along with teammate Josh Hazlewood and former coach Darren Lehmann, Starc has denied any involvement in the ball tampering scandal, reportedly furious at the suggestion they had cheated.

Starc took his 200th Test wicket in yesterday's play, dismissing Sri Lankan tail-ender Suranga Lakmal.

Mitchell Starc celebrates taking the wicket of Murali Vijay Source: Getty