Quicks Josh Hazlewood, James Pattinson and Michael Neser will get a chance to audition for a late World Cup call-up when Australia A begin their 50-over tour of England tomorrow.
While teams can only change their 15-man squads due to injury, each of the five pacemen in Australia’s unit is known to be physically fragile, and there are still four weeks left in this tournament.
Australia A, meanwhile, have five one-day matches in the next 13 days, finishing this sequence of fixtures before Australia’s final group-stage game, against South Africa on July 6.
This World Cup has already seen a sequence of high-profile injuries, including to England stars Eoin Morgan and Jason Roy, Indian gun Shikhar Dhawan, and Australian all-rounder Marcus Stoinis.
There may still be the need to call up a new quick should injury beset one of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jason Behrendorff or Kane Richardson.
Coulter-Nile’s body is already creaking, having been rested from Australia’s last game due to being “stiff and sore”, according to skipper Aaron Finch.
While Starc and Cummins have dominated to date, with 24 wickets at 19, the team’s glaring weakness has been the lack of impact from support quicks Coulter-Nile, Richardson and Behrendorff.
Hazlewood, Pattinson and Neser will have the chance to show what they could add if a place opened up.
Hazlewood would surely be in Australia’s starting XI right now if not for an untimely injury. When the World Cup squad was announced, the towering right-armer had not bowled in a match since the first week of January and was not yet operating at full pace in the nets. Now he has reportedly been bowling heat off his full run for the past month and is raring to get back into top-level cricket.
His long-time NSW teammate Kurtis Patterson told media this week Hazlewood’s rhythm was as good as he’d ever seen and that he was ready to “explode” for Australia A.
Given the way their support quicks have laboured in this World Cup, the Aussies would surely be boosted by the presence of Hazlewood. Just over a year ago the 27-year-old was the number two ranked ODI bowler in the world.
While he doesn’t have the same versatility as Starc and Cummins, who can excel with the new ball, in the middle overs or at the death, he is elite in those first two periods.
Pattinson, too, could prove an attractive option. While the Victorian’s overall ODI record is undeniably poor, that is partly due to the fact his 15 matches have been spread out across the past eight years. What he does offer is natural wicket-taking ability, handy skill with the bat, and generous experience in English conditions.
Pattinson took 11 wickets at 24 in the recent Royal London One Day Cup and also chipped in with 64 runs at 21.
Then there’s Neser, who made his ODI debut in England last year. Although not as potent with the ball as Hazlewood or Pattinson, he is a bowling all-rounder, something which the Australians lack.
Neser averages 24 with the bat in List A cricket and is coming off a career-best season with the blade in the Sheffield Shield, having made 481 runs at 44, including five half centuries.
Should one of the Australian batsmen get injured, then the ‘A’ squad includes potential replacements Peter Handscomb, Travis Head and D’Arcy Short.
But the focus during Australia A’s one-day matches will be squarely on the quicks, Hazlewood in particular.
Australia A 50-over squad: Travis Head (c), Mitch Marsh (vc) Matthew Wade, Will Pucovski, Peter Handscomb, D’Arcy Short, Kurtis Patterson, Ashton Agar, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Josh Hazlewood (vc), Sean Abbott, Andrew Tye.
Australia A 50-over fixtures
June 20 – Australia A vs Northamptonshire
June 23 – Australia A vs Derbyshire
June 25 – Australia A vs Worcestershire
June 30: Australia A vs Gloucestershire
July 2 – Australia A vs Gloucestershire