Australia has been dealt a major injury blow heading into the second Ashes Test in Adelaide, with star fast bowler Josh Hazlewood reportedly ruled out of the match.
Fox Sports reported on Sunday that Hazlewood, who suffered a side strain on day three of Australia’s nine-wicket win over England in the first Test at the Gabba, returned home to Sydney on Sunday afternoon, apart from the rest of the team.
Cricket Australia confirmed on Monday morning that the experienced seamer would miss the match, with his fitness for the Boxing Day Test uncertain.
“Hazlewood returned to Sydney yesterday afternoon for further assessment and rehabilitation with a decision on his fitness for the Boxing Day Test to be made in due course,” CA said in a statement.
Fast bowlers Michael Neser and Jhye Richardson have both been named in a 14-man squad for the second Test, with Richardson iset to be named in Hazlewood’s stead. The 25-year old Western Australian has been made to wait nearly three years to add to his two Test caps, having taking six wickets at 20.50 in an encouraging debut series against Sri Lanka.
Spinner Mitchell Swepson is also part of the squad, but it is unlikely Australia will opt for a second slow bowler alongside Nathan Lyon, with the day-night Test traditionally favouring the quicks.
A Hazlewood back injury was Richardson’s original path to a baggy green; history, it seems, has a habit of repeating itself.
David Warner is also in doubt to take his place at the Adelaide Oval after suffering a blow to the ribs from England all-rounder Ben Stokes while batting in Brisbane. The opener has also reportedly left Australia’s COVID bubble, according to Fox Sports.
Concerns over Hazlewood’s fitness were piqued when the right-armer bowled just eight of 68 overs for Australia on day three, as Joe Root and Dawid Malan put on a century stand to see England to stumps at 2/220.
He would return the day after to bowl six more, including taking the wicket of Jos Buttler; but captain Pat Cummins admitted after the win was wrapped up that Australia would be conservative with their frontline quick.
“We’re just managing him through. It’s obviously a five-Test match summer. He’s key for us, so we don’t want to blow him out of the water on day two or three,” Cummins said.
“We don’t want to put him in jeopardy for the whole series. So we’ll take our time… sleep on it, see how he pulls up tomorrow.”
While only taking three wickets for the Test, Hazlewood’s relentless efficiency made him a crucial part of Australia’s outstanding bowling performance at the Gabba. His miserly spell on the first morning, conceding just three runs from seven overs and picking up the wickets of Root and Malan to boot, gave the Aussies the upper hand they never relinquished.
With Hazlewood taking two outstanding catches at fine leg as well, Richardson’s famously dodgy shoulder will make it difficult for him to replace the New South Welshman in the field at least.
Hazlewood’s absence is a massive blow for Australia heading into the day-night Adelaide Test, a happy hunting ground for the right-armer. In five Tests at the venue with the pink ball, he has picked up 28 wickets at a miserly average of 18.43, with two five-wicket hauls.
His average of 24.45 against England is also a slight improvement on his career average of 25.63; both figures are clearly among the world’s best.