Australia's fast bowling stocks have been dealt another devastating blow just days out from the start of the Test series against India, with injury forcing Josh Hazlewood out of the first match. The four-Test series gets underway in Nagpur on Thursday, with the Aussies already missing Hazlewood's fellow fast bowler Mitchell Starc, who's recovering from a finger injury.
It also emerged over the weekend that allrounder Cameron Green will likely not be able to bowl if he is selected in the Aussie XI for the first Test, as he fights to overcome his own finger injury. The situation leaves Australia's fast bowling stocks in disarray, with Hazlewood's absence opening the door for cult hero Scott Boland to play in his first overseas Test for Australia.
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Boland's average is a staggering 12.21 after six Tests, but bowling on India's typically flat pitches is likely to present a much different challenge to what he's faced at home. The Aussies also have serious pace at their disposal in the form of uncapped West Australian quick Lance Morris, who is the remaining fast bowler in the 18-man squad.
With conditions in India expected to favour spin, the Aussies may opt to go for a two-pronged spin attack. That could see first-choice off-spinner Nathan Lyon partnered by one of Ashton Agar, Todd Murphy and Mitchell Swepson, with Agar's batting and experience perhaps giving him an edge amongst the other specialist tweakers.
With Hazlewood out, however, enormous pressure will fall on the shoulders of captain Pat Cummins, who will inevitably be burdened by a significantly greater workload in the first Test. While Hazlewood is clearly shattered about missing the first Test, he's confident in Australia's fast bowling depth, regardless of which way the selectors lean.
"Scotty (Boland) has bowled plenty at the MCG when it was a flat wicket (and) probably wasn't swinging or reverse swinging, so he knows how to work hard for a long period of time," Hazlewood said at Australia's training camp in Bangalore on Sunday. "You've got Lance Morris who has worked hard on reverse swing for the last month and then a nice lead-in here with a few sessions.
"The guys are excited first of all to play in the subcontinent; they both haven't yet, but they're very well qualified to do so."
Josh Hazlewood fighting to be fit for second Test
Hazlewood has endured a frustrating 18 months after missing four of the five Ashes Tests of 2021-22 and again being injured with a side strain early this summer. He returned for the drawn New Year's Test against South Africa in Sydney but admits the injury is still "lingering from then", with the damp conditions at the SCG in January difficult for him to bowl in.
"Just that extra load jumping off a soft ground to bowl, and again first Test match (back from injury) - your body is not used to that sort of workload as well," Hazlewood added. "I was bowling a fair bit leading into the (India) tour at home and sort of just pushing up against it.
"It probably wasn't recovering as well as I would have liked between each session. So, thought we'd give it a few days here straight off the bat and try and get over the hump and have a bowl from Tuesday and hope it goes well."
Starc is expected to be available for the second Test in Nagpur, but there is only three days between that and the second match in Delhi, leaving Hazlewood racing the clock to be fit for the second Test. The injury list means Pat Cummins will have to shoulder much of the fast bowling load in his first Test series in India as captain.
Cummins has lost just one Test since becoming Australia skipper in November 2021. The 29-year-old will join a legendary group of leaders if Australia are able to win a Test series in India for the first time in 19 years.
The last time they were successful on Indian soil, Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting steered a golden generation of Australia cricketers to victory back in 2004.
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