Australia pace bowler Josh Hazlewood will miss the World Test Championship final against India at the Kia Oval – little more than a week before the Ashes begins.
Hazlewood has been managing an Achilles issue as well as a side injury that flared up during the recent Indian Premier League, but Cricket Australia insists the 32-year-old will be fit for the start of this summer’s showdown with England at Edgbaston on June 16.
“Josh was very, very close to being given the green light but we are cognisant that our upcoming schedule means this is not a one-off Test match for us,” Australia chair of selectors George Bailey told cricket.com.au.
“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.”
Hazlewood has played just four Tests in the past three years due to a series of injuries but shared a stint of new-ball bowling with five-day skipper Pat Cummins during the team’s preparation in England.
He returned early from his recent spell in the IPL due to a side issue, having been ruled out of the preceding Test campaign in India with a recurrence of the Achilles problem he sustained in the final five-day match of the Australia summer.
Speaking on Saturday about the close proximity of the India decider, which starts on Wednesday, and the first Ashes Test, Hazlewood said: “It’s probably one or the other for me at this stage.
“Just being over here for the last week and bowling in England, it does feel a lot easier on the body compared to Australia or India where it can be hot, the wickets are really hard and you’ve got to bend your back to get something out of them.
“In England it feels like you can just take that couple of per cent off, bowl a bit within yourself and the wicket does enough for you.”
Michael Neser has joined the official 15-man Australia party, but Scott Boland is likely to partner Cummins and Mitchell Starc at the Oval.
Neser, who has been training with the Australia squad alongside another reserve quick bowler Sean Abbott, has been playing for Glamorgan in the LV= County Championship and taken 19 wickets at 25.63.
Australia coach Andrew McDonald said the tight turnaround between the WTC final and the five-Test Ashes series has to be taken into account in managing their fast bowlers.
McDonald said: “Definitely consideration for (the schedule) – we don’t want to go too far ahead.
“We’ve got the WTC final to play, which we are excited about, but on the back of that we have to quickly turn our attention to England and the Ashes.
“There are short turnarounds there. That’s nothing we’re not used to.
“So, there’ll always be considerations around management. I’d say there’d be some moving parts amongst the quicks.”