Josh Hazlewood has been ruled out of Australia's World Test Championship final clash against India due to his inability to recover in time. As a result, Michael Neser has been named as his replacement in the squad for the highly anticipated match set to commence on June 7 at The Oval. With Hazlewood's absence, Scott Boland is now a strong contender to secure a place in the playing XI for Australia.
Hazlewood still part of Ashes squad
Despite his setback, Hazlewood remains a part of Australia's squad for the upcoming Ashes series. The fast bowler had experienced side soreness during his participation in the IPL. However, chief selector George Bailey has assured that Hazlewood is still in contention for the first Test of the Ashes, scheduled to take place at Edgbaston on June 16. This indicates that there is still a possibility for Hazlewood to make an impactful return to the team in the near future.
"Josh was very, very close to being given the green light but we are cognisant that our upcoming schedule [the WTC final quickly followed by five Ashes Tests] means this is not a one-off Test match for us.
"This will give Josh an ideal preparation leading into Edgbaston. With six Test matches in a little over seven weeks we will need all of our fast bowling assets."
Nesser roped in following impressive County season
Michael Neser joins the Australian squad following his recent participation in the county cricket circuit with Glamorgan. Given the uncertainties surrounding Josh Hazlewood's fitness, Neser, and Sean Abbott, were withdrawn from their county commitments to train alongside the Australian team in Beckenham.
Speaking about Neser's inclusion, chief selector George Bailey highlighted his impressive form in county cricket and emphasised the convenience of having him nearby, enabling the team to call upon his skills when needed. Neser's presence adds further depth to the fast-bowling group.
Early exit from IPL
Concerns regarding Hazlewood's fitness arose after he was withdrawn from the Indian Premier League (IPL) following three matches with the Royal Challengers Bangalore. At the time, the decision was seen as a precautionary measure, as scans did not reveal any significant damage to his side.
Due to Hazlewood's recent history of injuries, including two side strains over the past two years and an Achilles issue, the team opted for caution. Consequently, Hazlewood has only played in four of Australia's last 19 Test matches and has not participated in consecutive first-class games since early 2021.
Fitness news from Australian camp
Hazlewood's inclusion in the World Test Championship final was subject to proving his fitness through rigorous training sessions leading up to the game. As recently as May 31, he remained hopeful of being fit to play. However, the announcement of his unavailability came on Sunday after he completed three bowling spells during training on Saturday.
Regarding the other specialist fast bowlers in Australia's WTC squad, captain Pat Cummins returns to the team after missing the previous two Tests against India due to personal reasons. Meanwhile, Mitchell Starc has fully recovered from a finger injury that caused him to miss the first two matches of the India series. With Cummins and Starc's return, Australia's fast-bowling unit is bolstered for the crucial championship clash.