How icon’s freak ‘gift’ sparked unthinkable 12-month reality amid star’s cruel twist – Fox Sports

The biggest question on everyone’s lips ahead of another Boxing Day blockbuster is whether Scott Boland, the softly spoken 33-year-old, will strongarm Josh Hazlewood away from Australia’s Test XI.
Regardless of the final decision, it’s a remarkable situation that no one could have seen coming a year ago, before the Victorian was named as a surprise, horses-for-courses debutant at the MCG with Hazlewood injured.
What happened next will live long in Australian sporting folklore — statue, or no statue.
It’s what happens now, however, that truly has the power to define Boland’s professional career.

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A ridiculous 6-7 on debut, taken on his home ground in an Ashes series, is virtually impossible to top from an individual performance perspective.
But more impressive would be Boland, in the twilight years of his career, breaching the impenetrable pace trio of Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc on merit alone.
Boland was never even meant to play at the MCG 12 months ago but, with Hazlewood nursing a sidestrain, and Jhye Richardson also going down after the Adelaide Test, the Victorian won a shock baggy green.
Injuries aside, part of the reasoning was that Boland was a MCG specialist, having regularly starred at the ground during the Sheffield Shield — even during its flat-track, dark days.
Boland lived up to his reputation in the second innings by claiming six wickets in 24 balls, delivering what was one of the most devastating fast bowling spells seen on these shores.
The bowler’s star turn, and a quick turnaround before the Sydney Test, offered him a second cap when few ever expected him to get one.
And then came a third.
And now, with 25 Test wickets at 10.36 and a strike rate of 30.2, there is talk of a sixth in a Boxing Day return.
So the question now goes, how long can this Boland fairy tale last?

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Two more ruthless displays against the West Indies and South Africa have at least separated him from the group of Australia’s fringe Test bowlers.
Boland’s last three innings have seen him take 7-58 from 29 overs, which barely saw a ball put out of place. And that says nothing of Boland’s ability to send a collapse into overdrive by delivering multi-wicket overs, as he has now done five times in his Test career.
“That metronomic, repeatable action – there’s nothing much can go wrong,” Kerry O’Keeffe explained on The Follow-On podcast. “He just bowls the rock into a rectangle on the perfect line and length to ask difficult questions of batters.
“As we saw in that brilliant over in Adelaide, if the batter gives him a wrong answer, he punishes them. That’s his great gift, you’ve got to get it right (as a batter) with Scott Boland. He just consistently hits the seam and goes either way.
“Batters are always guessing if it’s leaving them or coming back into them. To me, it’s 135km/hr leg breaks and wrong’uns. When we on Fox Cricket replay the delivery, you see how skilful he is at making the ball go one way or the other way off the seam. It’s a gift.”
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Boland is now at least Australia’s fourth best quick, but amid Hazlewood’s fitness difficulties and Boland’s consistency, there are valid questions about whether he’s worth even more.
Of course, Hazlewood has an immense amount of good credit. Taking 383 wickets for Australia at 25.13 across all formats will do that.
There is also no suggestion that he is a man out of form either. In fact, he’s arguably never been better in white ball cricket.
But it’s hard to ignore the fact that Hazlewood’s involvement in Test cricket has drastically dwindled since India’s visit in 2020-21.
Hazlewood has only played three Tests in nearly two years, featuring just once in the 21-22 Ashes, and once this summer, while he was overlooked for all but one of Australia’s five matches in Asia this year.
Minor side strains have been part of the problem, but the elevation of Cummins to Test captain, and Starc’s point of difference with his speedy left-armers, has opened Hazlewood up to a cruel new world of vulnerability.
Now Boland is bowling the house down every time he’s in Australian whites to make Hazlewood’s position in Test cricket even more tenuous, even if he was to be picked in Melbourne.

It is, of course, a good problem for Australia to have.
Selectors could pick Boland in Melbourne, or Hazlewood, and neither would feel like the wrong decision.
But for Boland to be so heavily in the conversation with Hazlewood potentially fully fit again speaks in volumes about the former’s persistence, resilience and commitment to improvement.
If Hazlewood was to genuinely fall out of favour, he could surely do nothing but tip his cap to the right-armer.
What way selectors will go is unclear — even Boland has no idea about where he now stands.
Boland told reporters in Melbourne on Friday that he “hadn’t heard a thing” about if he would be playing.
“I’m not sure. I hope so, but I’m not sure,” Boland said.
“Obviously, I’m really hoping that I get to play, but I think we’ve got a couple of big training sessions over the next couple of days.”
Meanwhile, legends are somewhat divided over the Boland vs Hazlewood conundrum with the fitness of the latter set to be the deciding factor.
Former Australia captain and selector Allan Border said that the nature of Hazlewood’s injury, and the fact Boland is still in top form, means no risks should be taken.
“It’s a tough one, but I would go Boland (over Hazlewood),” Border told

“You don’t know exactly what’s going on behind the scenes, but Josh is a bit underdone.”
He added: “There’s no rush to get Josh back because Boland is such a good option.
“And playing at home and all the history from last year, it will just be a real buzz to have the home-ground boy playing. And then you can rethink things for Sydney.”
Brett Lee this week also warned of the dangers about playing too soon after a side strain, but leaned towards Hazlewood getting the nod over Boland.
“If Josh Hazlewood is fully fit, I‘d be going Josh Hazlewood,” Lee told Fox Cricket on Wednesday night.
“Nothing against Boland, he‘s a brilliant bowler and gets wickets for fun – but 58 Tests under his belt and 217 wickets in the Hoff.”
Dan Christian backed up Lee’s position, saying: “It’d be a really tough decision to leave him out I think, but Josh Hazlewood has got some credits in the bank.”


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