Australia have effectively revealed their full pace attack for the first Ashes Test in Brisbane by withdrawing Josh Hazlewood and Jackson Bird from the third round of the Sheffield Shield in addition to Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins.
The decision to have Hazlewood train alongside the other three at the National Cricket Centre – rather than playing for New South Wales in the Shield match against Queensland at Allan Border Field next week – followed his impressively rhythmic return to first-class cricket against Western Australia at Hurstville Oval.
Having played in Sydney grade cricket the previous weekend, Hazlewood claimed three wickets in each innings, notably dismissing Test middle-order contender Hilton Cartwright for a first-innings duck, defeating the WA captain Mitchell Marsh in each innings, and also getting the wicket of Shaun Marsh twice. These top-order incisions made it possible for Starc to pluck a hat-trick in each innings while cleaning up the WA tail.
Following the match, Hazlewood was involved in discussions with coaches, selectors and medical staff, leading to the decision to spell him from the next Shield match, effectively deciding he was ahead of schedule after Hurstville. Instead, he will work alongside Starc, Cummins and Bird under the eye of the Australian bowling coach David Saker in Brisbane. Starc and Cummins were always slated to play the first two Shield games before missing the third.
“The decision on Hazlewood not playing in the third round of the Shield was made in consultation with the player, coaching staff, selectors and team performance staff, following a review of all the bowlers after the last round of the Shield,” a Cricket Australia spokesperson said.
Bird’s inclusion in the quartet, having bowled well for Tasmania despite their defeats in the opening two matches to Western Australia and Queensland, underlines his long-standing position as the selectors’ preferred reserve pace bowler in most conditions. He played the most recent of his Test matches at the MCG against Pakistan on Boxing Day last season, and was a squad member in both India and Bangladesh.
Beyond Bird, the most recent other pace bowler in Australian squads has been Chadd Sayers, who was 12th man for last year’s day-night Test in Adelaide and is a noted exponent of swing and seam with the pink ball.
Source: ESPN Crickinfo