The build-up to Josh Hazlewood’s Ashes series has been eerily similar to the last time Australia played England for Test cricket, with the fast bowler fresh off an injury layoff. Four years ago, Hazlewood and Starc were benched in favour of Peter Siddle and James Pattinson for the Edgbaston opener, and the 32-year-old is still a possibility, with the think-tank having the in-form Scott Boland and the left-arm variety of Starc.
That hasn’t stopped Hazlewood from proclaiming himself fit to play in Birmingham after missing the World Test Championship final against India last week. “If we go back a few years, I would have said [I expected to play] all six [Tests].” But, based on the last two years of history, I guess it’s a little different now. Three is a good pass, and four is probably a tick. Anything more is fantastic. Any less, and I’ll probably be disappointed again,” Hazlewood remarked two days before the start of the headline series.
Australia has depth in their seam-bowling ranks, which has been reinforced by the rise of Boland and Cameron Green, the seam-bowling all-rounder. That means that in a tightly packed series of five Tests, they can rest and rotate their bowlers and field a relatively fresh assault for each game. Hazlewood may not be a sure starter, but he has a terrific record in England, where he has 36 wickets at 23.58.
“I think when you have that depth for each game, you can really go as hard as you can and then reassess after the game because you always have someone of high quality sitting on the pine and ready to go.” So it’s a terrific position to be in for the team,” he remarked. “Potentially, if you [have] back-to-back Tests and bowl 50 overs, and you have someone [like] Boland, Starc, or myself on the bench, fresh and ready to go for the next Test, it makes those conversations a little easier.” The males are a little more open to it in order to build that longevity. Perhaps the all-format guys are more open to it than others.”
Hazlewood, who has had a string of injuries over the last six months and had to return home from the India tour and subsequent IPL, said he was not as eager to make a statement as he had been on his previous comeback, the New Year’s Test in Sydney, where he suffered the achilles injury. Contrary to popular belief, he believes that competition in the bowling ranks will only serve to prolong careers. “You might miss one or two games with a niggle rather than pushing it and missing three or four months.”
“I probably felt that [wanting to prove a point] a little bit more in Sydney leading up to that game.” In England, I believe my track record is rather good. In these circumstances, I’m very certain. What’s most thrilling is arguably what England has done in the last 18 months. It’s what a few of us require to be our best.”