Ponting thinks a fit Hazlewood will still pip Boland for Ashes spot


Hazlewood was withdrawn from Australia’s World Test Championship (WTC) squad after it was decided he was not quite ready following his truncated IPL, from which he returned home with some side soreness although he was later cleared of any injury.

He was said to be “very close” to being available and is on track for the first Test against England, but Boland has continued to make a strong case to be selected as one of Australia’s three specialist quicks.

He was the pick of the bowlers in the first innings of the WTC final against India with 2 for 59 from 20 overs, removing Shubman Gill with one that nipped back on the second evening then spearing a delivery through KS Bharat with the second ball of the third day.

“Nothing changes for me,” Ponting said. “If Hazlewood is fit and they are 100% convinced that he can get through the game, then I think he’ll start, but if he doesn’t you have a pretty good back-up.”

Hazlewood has only played four Tests in this WTC cycle through a combination of injury and the balance of the side on the subcontinent. He made an impressive return against South Africa at the SCG in January but picked up an Achillies injury due to the soft run-ups.

Over the last 18 months, Boland has made a remarkable start to his Test career, bursting onto the scene with 6 for 7 at the MCG in the previous Ashes, and appears to be a bowler with all the attributes to be successful with the Dukes ball in England.

“Scotty is very impressive,” Ponting said. “The thing the selectors might be thinking about is Josh’s injury record over the last few years. When you look at it, with Scotty bowling the way he is, it’s a pretty compelling argument to say is he in their starting XI for the first Test.

“Looking ahead, though, with five Test matches in six weeks, don’t think we can expect either bowling group to get through [fully], both teams will probably have to rest a quick or two here and there through the series.”

However, Ponting added that he thinks Pat Cummins‘ stated ambition to play all six Tests in the condensed schedule is possible because of the presence of Cameron Green in Australia’s line-up.

“In series gone by, where there hasn’t’ been that world-class allrounder to throw the ball to for 15 overs an innings, then it would have been less likely,” he said. “But I think if Pat manages himself well enough, with Green there to help out, I think the captain can get through.”

Cummins took three wickets in India’s first innings but cost himself three due to no-balls. On the second day he would have removed both Ravindra Jadeja and Ajinkya Rahane lbw, then on the third he pinned Shardul Thakur in front but was marginally over again.

In all Cummins was called for six no-balls, the most he has sent down in an international innings, and Ponting said it was a symptom of his lengthy layoff from the game having not played competitively since the end of February when he left the tour of India early for personal reasons. However, there is evidence that he has been called more frequently since the automated front-foot technology was introduced.

“Simple, he’s lacking rhythm, he hasn’t played for three months,” Ponting said. “He’s bowled six no-balls in this innings, two [three] of them have cost him wickets…but he’s never been someone that I can remember that’s been plagued by any kind of no-ball issue.

“I just think it’s because he’s not back into full game mode, and not back into his full rhythm. As today went on, I did think he looked better and I think he’ll be better in the second innings as well.”

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