Former Australia opener Simon Katich has urged the selectors to retain Scott Boland for the Boxing Day Test against South Africa at the MCG, instead of getting Josh Hazlewood in the playing eleven despite him being available for selection.
Hazlewood missed the Adelaide Test against the West Indies after suffering a side strain, opening the door for Boland to return to Australia’s playing eleven. He then retained his spot over Michael Neser when Pat Cummins returned for the Brisbane Test against South Africa.
Boland picked a triple-wicket maiden at Adelaide Oval to help Australia claim a comprehensive 419-run victory over the West Indies and seal the series 2-0. Against South Africa, he had a match haul of four wickets as Australia wrapped a six-wicket victory in just two days.
“I think he does (start ahead of Hazlewood). I think he’s one of the first picked at the moment because he just builds pressure. Even when he didn’t take wickets in the first innings at Adelaide, he was still building pressure at one end and the other bowlers were reaping the rewards,” said Katich on SEN Breakfast show.
Boland also has a superb record at the MCG, his home venue, where he averages 24.35 in first-class cricket. He had become an iconic figure when he took 6/7 against England on debut at home last year. Hazlewood, on the other hand, averages 35.69 at the iconic venue.
“As we’ve seen, he’s got this knack of being able to take multiple wickets in an over and I think it’s because he’s on and around the top of off stump with movement both ways at good pace in the high 130s km/h.”
“He just asks really tough questions of the new batsman when they come to the crease and I think he has to play,” added Katich.
Katich believes that Hazlewood is lacking the fitness to play in Australia’s biggest Test of the year. “It’s no disrespect to Josh Hazlewood who’s a class player, but he’s been underdone. He didn’t play any red ball cricket leading into the Test at Perth, got injured and I’m not sure he walks straight back in.”
Previously, in the post-match press conference, Australia skipper Pat Cummins had admitted that choosing between Boland and Hazlewood will be a tough decision for the team thinktank.
Hazlewood has played just three Tests since February 2021 due to a combination of injuries and Australia’s preference for two spinners in the subcontinent tours of Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
“Even looking at the first Test of the summer was a tough call after the summer he had last year. We keep talking about the next six months – we’ve got some big tours coming up and we’re going to need more than 11 players. To be able to draw on someone like Josh Hazlewood off the bench, it’s going to be tough with someone missing out.”
Similar views were echoed by former Australia cricketer and chief of selectors George Bailey. “(Boland) was on the radar for the MCG last year because of exactly what we’ve seen him do – he bashes a length, and his ability to take multiple wickets in the same over speaks to how consistent he is and the questions he asks of the batter right from ball one.”
“Josh is recovering really well. Had another really good hit out and is close to 90 per cent I reckon. He’ll keep building and clearly we’ve got a decision to make, but it’s a good problem to have.”