Hazlewood pushes for Test recall in Boland’s backyard – Sydney Morning Herald

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With a willing spell of bowling in Scott Boland’s Junction Oval backyard, Josh Hazlewood pushed to prove his fitness in order to compete with the Victorian for a recall to Australia’s Test side that will face South Africa on Boxing Day at the MCG.
But it will be Boland’s formidable record on Melbourne’s drop-in surfaces that stands as the major obstacle to Hazlewood’s return for the second Test against the Proteas, even if all the data points suggest he is fully recovered from a side strain.
Australia’s Josh Hazlewood is hoping to prove his fitness.Credit:AP
As other members of the Australian squad commuted from Brisbane – scene of the two-day Test at the Gabba – to Melbourne, Hazlewood went through his paces in the closing stages of his recovery from the injury he suffered against the West Indies in Perth.
Part of Hazlewood’s session saw him hurl deliveries down at the young Victoria left-hander Ashley Chandrasinghe, who turned plenty of heads with a patient century on Sheffield Shield debut against Tasmania earlier this summer.
Critical to whether team fitness staff hand Hazlewood back to the national selectors for consideration will be GPS readings that measure the intensity and speed of his run-up and approach to the bowling crease.
Should Hazlewood be able to maintain the level he habitually meets when fully fit on Test match duty, pushing hard through the crease and landing the ball on a sixpence in the 135-140km/h range, he will be available for selection.
Available, however, will not be the same as winning the right to be chosen. Selectors George Bailey, Tony Dodemaide and coach Andrew McDonald will also consider the respective records of Boland and Hazlewood at the MCG in Tests and first-class games.
For Boland, that means not only his remarkable debut against England a year ago, when he claimed 6-7 in the second innings as part of a match haul of 7-55. It also includes a staggering 49 wickets at 13.4 in seven first-class games at the ground over the past four seasons.
Tiny Shield crowds at the MCG bore witness to the skills Boland’s current Test record of 25 wickets at 10.46 in five matches was built on.
Hazlewood, by contrast, has battled through his least productive Tests in Melbourne, albeit often on the soporific pitches prepared prior to major remedial work on the MCG surface in 2019. He has taken just 14 wickets at 39.78 in six MCG matches.
Brisbane and Adelaide rank as Hazlewood’s most effective Australian Test venues, where he has 32 wickets at each. His home ground in Sydney is not far behind with 20 wickets at 25.80.
Logic and a conservative approach to recovery would suggest a scenario whereby Boland gets the chance to reprise his debut heroics on Boxing Day, before Hazlewood is recalled to play at the SCG.
In Brisbane, before his departure south, the all-rounder Cam Green said that anticipation was building for Melbourne and the biggest day of the Test match calendar.
“Very special, I’ve only played two games at the MCG and they’ve both been Boxing Day Tests,” Green said. “That national anthem gets you, you don’t really realise until you’re out there singing it, and it’s pretty loud, and I’ve had a couple of pretty special games there.
“Scott Boland last year was incredible and then having a victory lap after that. So, pretty special memories.”
At the end of his session, Hazlewood was spotted in the rain outside Junction Oval, waiting patiently for a lift back to the team hotel. It now looks likely to be up to the selectors whether he gets the Melbourne cab or has to wait for Sydney.
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