The mercurial left-armer can be erratic at times but can also step up in big moments, as seen during the World Cup when he dismissed Stokes at a crucial stage of a group game.
Stokes was threatening to again stall Australia but the introduction of Starc into the attack proved a game changer.
Starc needed to lift after an underwhelming return the day before, and lift he did. Armed with the second new ball, the big quick soon had Stokes under pressure.
He drew a false shot from Stokes on 15, which narrowly missed the stumps, then the following ball put down a difficult return chance low to his right when he was on 19.
Starc was rewarded in his next over, not with the wicket of Stokes – which would come later – but that of Jonny Bairstow.
The England wicketkeeper is most vulnerable when his stumps are attacked, and he had no answer to a 142.7 km/h peach which curved through the considerable gap between his bat and pad to hit middle stump.
In fairness to Bairstow, he had been shown a delivery which landed in a similar spot the ball before which angled across him.
Stokes was drawn to play at one which moved enough off the seam and was caught at second slip by Steve Smith, who the day before had taken his 100th catch.
“Starc’s not the bowler we saw yesterday, he’e been accurate, he’s been hostile, he’s had swing, movement,” former England captain David Gower said on the telecast.
Despite being Australia’s Test spearhead for the past few years, Starc has been stuck on the bench as the side opted for the consistency of Peter Siddle and James Pattinson to dry up England’s runs.
At his best Starc can blast out the opposition but he can also be expensive when not on song. He has worked hard to alter his game to better suit English conditions with selectors wanting him to bowl a fuller length.
Starc briefly lost his radar on the third day, which allowed Rory Burns and Joe Root to settle into a groove. He was not used after tea but responded brilliantly for his captain.
Jofra Archer, who was wicketless in the first innings, made just one before hanging his bat out to Pat Cummins and being caught behind. The speedster gave Australia the chance to run him out first ball when he cantered for a single but the fielder, from behind short leg, could not throw down the stumps at the non-striker’s end.
Cummins thoroughly deserved his wicket having gone unrewarded for his wholehearted spell late in the third day.
Australia captured three wickets on the fourth morning to have England at 8-278 at lunch, in pursuit of the visitors’ 8d-497.
Andrew Wu writes on cricket and AFL for The Sydney Morning Herald