Fast-bowling all-rounder Michael Neser has been named as a replacement for Josh Hazlewood in Australia’s squad for the World Test Championship Final clash against India starting at The Oval on June 7. As per the International Cricket Council (ICC), Hazlewood has been ruled out of the marquee match due to his ongoing left Achilles and left side issue. Neser, who has played two Tests and as many ODIs for Australia, has been brought in for the WTC Final squad after his inclusion was approved by the Event Technical Committee. Hazlewood had also missed this ‘ear’s tour of India due to a left Achilles tendon issue, which delayed his arrival in Indian Premier League (IPL) 2023. He then left the tournament after playing only three games for Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) due to a side issue.
Hazlewood had also missed a majority of the last two home summers due to side strains. His absence now means that Neser and specialist pacer Scott Boland are in contention for the third pacer slot and partner with captain Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc.
Chief selector George Bailey said Hazlewood should be available for selection for the first Ashes Test against England at Edgbaston, starting from 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 of us,” Bailey was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au. Injuries in the last two years have meant Hazlewood has played only four of Australia’s last 19 Test matches and has not featured in consecutive first-class games since early 2021. He was picked for the WTC Final squad subject to coming through heavy training loads. He had said to the ICC on May 31 that he was hopeful of being ready for the clash at The Oval and had even bowled a lot in the training session on Saturday.
On the other hand, Neser has scored 311 runs and taken 19 wickets, with scores of 123, 86 and 90 so far being a standout from his time in the county championship with Glamorgan. Though he was left out of the initial 17-man Australia squad for the WTC Final and Ashes, Neser and Sean Abbott were training with the Test side at Beckenham.
“Michael’s County form has been strong and knowing that he was going to be close by allowed for him to keep playing and for us to be able to call on him. He is a great strength to have as part of the fast bowling group.”
“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,” added Bailey, the former Australia cricketer.
Updated Australia squad: Pat Cummins (captain), Scott Boland, Alex Carey (wicketkeeper), Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Josh Inglis (wicketkeeper), Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Todd Murphy, Michael Neser, Steve Smith (vice-captain), Mitchell Starc and David Warner
Standby players: Mitch Marsh, Matthew Renshaw