‘Hard conversations’ weave in the Ashes selection pressure

Australia’s selectors will put their trust in Josh Hazlewood’s judgment as they weigh tough choices with six fast-moving formers and a highly rated leg-spinner to choose from for the fourth Ashes Test.

Hazlewood came through about 35 minutes of gentle bowling in the MCG nets on Thursday, and still appeared in some discomfort on returning from a side load.

The session was Hazlewood’s first bowl in almost three weeks, after injuring his side in the Ashes opening at Gabba and missing the next two tests.

Hazlewood bowled at MCG Nets Thursday // Getty
Hazlewood bowled at MCG Nets Thursday // Getty

With the series already wrapped up in Australia’s favor, there are some arguments that Hazlewood should have more time to recover, especially with a tour of Pakistan looming in March.

But Chief Electoral Officer George Bailey said his panel would not hold Hazlewood back if it fits.

“I have pretty good faith that Hoff knows his own body and trusts his own body,” Bailey said.

“He will build up as he would before any kind of test.

“He will talk a lot with (assistant) Andrew McDonald and (physio) David Beakley to see how he is doing.

“If Hoff is confident and he says he has the right to go, I think we’ll back him up. He’s earned that trust.”

Bailey also indicated that Australia’s innings victory in Melbourne meant Mitchell Starc would not be sitting out in Sydney, despite being the only one quick not to miss a test this summer.

Starc was required to bowl only 25 overs at MCG, and Australia’s early win gave him days off four and five without even bowling in the net, giving him a week off between matches.

“Your plans are constantly changing because you have no idea how many overs the bowlers are going to bowl,” Bailey said.

“So you have to stay pretty fluid around it.

“Today would have been day five (at MCG). So especially our fast ones who do not have as big a workload as they had in Adelaide and a few extra days off will all work to their advantage.”

Skipper Pat Cummins, who missed the second test due to a COVID scare, is a paceman who is sure to play.

If other regulars Starc and Hazlewood both play, it means there will be no room for debutant Scott Boland despite his stunning 6-7 performance at debut at MCG.

Jhye Richardson would also miss out after sitting out the Melbourne Test with less soreness in his legs after his match-winning five-wicket move in Adelaide.

Queenslander Michael Neser, who made his debut in Adelaide, is also available.

At best, there could be room for one of them, which created a tough situation for voters as Richardson was over Boland in the pick order before the Victorian’s fantastic show in Melbourne.

“It’s a headache. It’s a big headache,” Bailey said with a smile.

Boland tears England through with 6-7 in a spectacular round

“Of course some difficult conversations to be had at some point.”

The other screwdriver in the works could be leg spinner Mitchell Swepson, if Australia sees a spinning wicket in Sydney and decides to play two tweakers, with all-rounder Cameron Green as the third nail.

“We have no doubt Swepo is ready, whether it’s at SCG or whether it’s sometime in the future,” Bailey said.

“We would not love anything more for him to have an opportunity, but it will probably be conditional.”

Vodafone men’s ashes

Squads

Australia: Pat Cummins (c), Steve Smith (vc), Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, Jhye Richardson, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson , David Warner

England: Joe Root (c), James Anderson, Jonathan Bairstow, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, David Malan, Craig Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Ben Stokes , Chris Woakes, Mark Wood

Time schedule

First test: Australia won by nine wickets

Second test: Australia won by 275 races

Third test: Australia won by one innings and 14 runs

Fourth test: 5.-9. January, SCG

Fifth test: January 14-18, Blundstone Arena

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