Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins in doubt for Pakistan Tests

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

By Ronan O'Connell, Ronan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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    Australia’s Test pace depth may soon be challenged, with star quicks Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins in doubt for the Test tour against Pakistan in October.

    Australia will be landing in the UAE in about eight weeks from now to play two Tests and three T20s, but Hazlewood and Cummins reportedly are still trying to overcome back injuries.

    Mitchell Starc said on Sunday he expects to be fit to play against Pakistan, which is great news for Australia given his record in Asia – 33 wickets at an average of 26 from eight Tests.

    But Starc also revealed that neither Cummins nor Hazlewood were back bowling yet.

    Australia surely would be loath to rush back either quick given their importance to three massive upcoming events – Australia’s home Test series against world number one team India, followed by the World Cup and the Ashes in England next year.

    So there may well be two pace spots up for grabs. Australia will likely play two spinners in the UAE, as they have done in every Test they’ve played in Asia over the past four calendar years, but they’ll also take at least three quicks, with Starc an automatic selection.

    Here are the main pace contenders to play in Pakistan:

    Jackson Bird
    34 Test wickets at an average of 31.

    Bird has never played a Test in Asia but has twice been picked on Test tours of the continent – the 2016 tour of Sri Lanka and last year’s tour of India. The tall right-armer has been on the periphery of the Test team since making his debut nearly six years ago, playing nine Tests in that time.

    But I am not convinced he is suited to playing on the dry, flat pitches that are typical in the UAE. The 31-year-old has lost a yard of pace and now operates mainly in the 125-132kmh range. His main weapon – sharp lift – makes him a far better option on the bouncier pitches in Australia, South Africa, England and New Zealand than on the low decks in the UAE.

    Jackson Bird celebrates

    Jackson Bird (Ross Setford/SNPA via AP)

    Chadd Sayers
    248 wickets at 24 in first-class cricket

    Sayers made his international debut in Australia’s most recent Test match, in South Africa, after only being called into the squad for that series when Bird got injured.

    The South Australian swing bowler was long overdue to get a crack at Test cricket but looked out of his depth in that match. Sayers was accurate, as expected, but completely lacked penetration, rarely troubling the Proteas batsmen as he took just two wickets from 49 overs.

    The 30-year-old’s lack of pace appeared to be a hindrance as he bowled in the 118-125kmh range throughout that match. It is hard to see how a short bowler (180cm) operating at such a gentle pace can be effective on the slow, flat decks in the UAE.

    Jyhe Richardson
    22 wickets at 28 in first-class cricket

    The Western Australian prodigy has been fast tracked by the selectors over the last 18 months, making his international debut in T20 cricket aged just 20 early last year, playing four ODIs home and away against England this year, and was a shock selection in the Test squad in South Africa.

    The 21-year-old is part of this month’s Australia A tour of India but, strangely, he will play only the one-day matches not the first-class fixtures. This suggests the selectors don’t view him as a strong option for the tour of the UAE, otherwise surely they would have wanted him to get his first experience of red-ball cricket in Asia.

    Chris Tremain
    170 wickets at 23 in first-class cricket

    This is the man I would pick to open the bowling with Starc. The Victorian is the best bowler in Australia yet to play a Test. No one has taken more wickets over the past three Sheffield Shield seasons, Tremain having grabbed 129 wickets at 20 in that time.

    What’s more, he’s achieved that while playing half his matches at the MCG, which has been an absolute road in recent years. This will have prepared him well for bowling on dead decks.

    Tremain is exactly the type of paceman the Australian selectors like – he’s tall (193cm), he swings the ball, and he’s quick, having been clocked at up to 148kmh during his debut ODI series in South Africa, in 2016.

    The 26-year-old is yet to play a first-class match outside of Australia but is set to rectify that in the coming weeks when he plays for Australia A in India. Those two matches, played on what are expected to be dry, slow pitches in Vizag, will be the perfect Test audition.

    Outsiders
    WA left armer Joel Paris and Queensland duo Michael Neser and Brendan Doggett are the other three quicks, apart from Tremain, in the Australia A squad for the first-class matches in India. Doggett is unlikely to play against Pakistan, having played just seven first-class matches to date. But, then again, selectors have made some truly odd Test picks in recent years.

    Having already played international cricket, albeit in the one day format, Paris and Neser would seem to be closer. The reality is, if Hazlewood and Cummins are unavailable, any of Paris, Neser or Doggett could snare a Test debut by dominating for Australia A.

    Meanwhile, beanpole express quick Billy Stanlake will only play in Australia A’s one-day fixtures in India but, after some stunning white-ball spells, he too is an outside chance.

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco

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    The Crowd Says (24)

    • August 7th 2018 @ 7:39am
      BurgyGreen said | August 7th 2018 @ 7:39am | ! Report

      We’ll see what happens on the A tour, but right now, it’s gotta be Tremain. I’d go so far as to say he’s not just the best bowler, but the best cricketer in Australia yet to play a Test.

      • Columnist

        August 7th 2018 @ 4:49pm
        Ronan O'Connell said | August 7th 2018 @ 4:49pm | ! Report

        Tremain’s no mug with the bat either, he has a first class ton to his name.

        • August 7th 2018 @ 7:20pm
          BurgyGreen said | August 7th 2018 @ 7:20pm | ! Report

          My impression was that that knock came as quite a surprise to his teammates – he’s got no other 50+ scores. Based on his overall figures it seems like he’s more Nathan Lyon than Pat Cummins.

          • Columnist

            August 7th 2018 @ 8:09pm
            Ronan O'Connell said | August 7th 2018 @ 8:09pm | ! Report

            Have you seen him bat though? He has got obvious ability with the bat, looks very handy for a tail ender.

            • August 8th 2018 @ 5:24pm
              BurgyGreen said | August 8th 2018 @ 5:24pm | ! Report

              Yeah I’ll admit the only time I remember watching him bat was highlights of that ton. Hopefully there’ll be some sort of stream for the India A games

              • Columnist

                August 8th 2018 @ 7:18pm
                Ronan O'Connell said | August 8th 2018 @ 7:18pm | ! Report

                Fingers crossed for a stream!

    • August 7th 2018 @ 8:15am
      Christo the Daddyo said | August 7th 2018 @ 8:15am | ! Report

      The other good thing about Tremain coming into the international domain now, is that he’s hopefully old enough not to break down every five minutes or so…

      • Columnist

        August 7th 2018 @ 4:51pm
        Ronan O'Connell said | August 7th 2018 @ 4:51pm | ! Report

        Tremain has proven pretty durable, he’s missed very little cricket in the last 2-3 years.

    • August 7th 2018 @ 9:03am
      Paul said | August 7th 2018 @ 9:03am | ! Report

      Tremain certainly seems to be the standout.It’s a 2 Test series and if Tremain or Starc were even slightly injured, who’d replace them? Ditto with Lyons or Agar?

    • Roar Guru

      August 7th 2018 @ 9:14am
      Rellum said | August 7th 2018 @ 9:14am | ! Report

      Are any of them actually injured. I always take with a grain of salt vague fast bowler injuries anouced at the end of the summer. Espicially when all three are anounced as injured at the same time.

      Feels more like informed player management is back again and they are just going to limit loads on these offseason tours

      • August 7th 2018 @ 12:57pm
        Paul said | August 7th 2018 @ 12:57pm | ! Report

        I don’t doubt they’re not recovering from injuries but at what stage they’re at, the public doesn’t really know. As you suggest, this might well be a tactic to limit workloads, as these guys will have a very busy 9 months, come the start of the Australian summer.

        • Roar Guru

          August 7th 2018 @ 1:26pm
          Rellum said | August 7th 2018 @ 1:26pm | ! Report

          I find it very suspicious that all three broke down with long term injuries immediately after the last Test series finished. I think Starc was having some foot issues but none of them broke down during the series in South Africa.

          Direct from CA on Cummins

          “Cricket Australia is erring on the side of caution with the star fast bowler, who has developed hot spots in his back after bearing a heavy workload during the series against England and South Africa.

          The injury is not understood to be serious”

          That sounds like resting to me, not an actual injury. When it was originally announced they would miss the one dayers in England I just assumed it was CA resting them and saying what they liked to cover that up. They don’t want to come out and say he is resting because I assume they want to avoid criticism of resting players and other countries being annoyed that our best aren’t touring.

          • Columnist

            August 7th 2018 @ 4:57pm
            Ronan O'Connell said | August 7th 2018 @ 4:57pm | ! Report

            Rellum the fact Cummins and Hazlewood still aren’t back bowling, even in the nets, 18 weeks after the end of the SA series suggests to me they had genuine injuries.

    • Roar Guru

      August 7th 2018 @ 9:47am
      Matt H said | August 7th 2018 @ 9:47am | ! Report

      Injuries continue to get us, typically the bowling strength on the injured list is better than what is available. From this I assume the following bowlers are unavailable – Pattinson, Behrendorff, NCN. The aren’t a whole heap of other options.
      – Joe Mennie has played a test and has been doing ok in county cricket this season. 24 wickets at 21 in County Division 1.
      – Kane Richardson is seen as a white ball bowler.
      – Faulkner fell off a cliff.
      – Siddle wouldn’t let us down but age is against him. He has 20 wickets at 16 in County Dvisision 1 this season.
      – Boland is honest but Tremain is better
      – Daniel Worrall is another honest trier, has taken 16 wickets at under 22 in the County Second Divisions this season.
      – Luke Feldman was out performed by Neser, and he’s even older.

      I wonder if there was any thought given to skipping the lot of them and looking at Nick Winter from SA or Tom Rogers from Tasmania, who both had very good Shield seasons last year.

    • Roar Pro

      August 7th 2018 @ 9:54am
      mrrexdog said | August 7th 2018 @ 9:54am | ! Report

      Has the schedule for the tour been announced yet?

      • Columnist

        August 7th 2018 @ 5:00pm
        Ronan O'Connell said | August 7th 2018 @ 5:00pm | ! Report

        No it hasn’t, but the tour against Pak will have to start in early October because of the time constraints of the home ODI series in early November.

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