England is 2-0 down in the five-match series after losing the first and second Tests in Brisbane and Adelaide by nine wickets and 275 runs, respectively.
Australian pace bowler Scott Boland’s fairy-tale run in the Ashes could continue into the fifth Test at Hobart with head coach Justin Langer conceding on Friday that Josh Hazlewood had still not recovered completely from the side strain he suffered during the opening Test at The Gabba (Brisbane).
The 32-year-old Boland made a dream debut in the Boxing Day Test at the MCG, claiming six second-innings England wickets for just seven runs as Australia humbled the tourists by an innings and 14 runs to take an unassailable 3-0 lead in the series.
While Hazlewood has been all but ruled out of the final Ashes Test, Boland’s competition for the Hobart game would be with Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser. But with Boland giving another commanding bowling performance on Friday, dismissing Joe Root for a duck and opener Zak Crawley for 18 to return figures of 2/25 from 12 overs, the Indigenous player looks set to play his third consecutive Ashes game.
“At this stage it is looking like that,” coach Langer said of Hazlewood missing the Hobart Test next week due to the side strain.
“Unfortunately Josh hasn’t come up, hopefully he’ll be right for the white-ball games,” added Langer, hinting that the attention had now turned to getting Hazlewood fit for the limited-overs series against New Zealand and Sri Lanka later this month.
“It’s been really tough on him (Hazlewood); he has been really hanging out to play in this Ashes series like everyone. He has missed three games, so to have one of our premier fast bowlers out of the series, I guess it is a bit like England missing one of their premier fast bowlers (in Jofra Archer) – we’ve missed big Josh. At this stage, if I was a guessing man I’d say that he probably won’t play the next Test match but we will wait and see,” Langer was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au.
Meanwhile, there was an injury scare to Boland after a fall and he was taken for scans. But Cricket Australia (CA) later tweeted that the pace bowler was fit to take the field on Saturday, the fourth day of the SCG Test.
“Scott Boland has been taken for a scan following a fall on the last ball of the middle session of day three of the Vodafone Ashes Test. Updates will be made available in due course,” CA had tweeted initially on Friday.
But following the all-clear, CA gave an update on the bowler, saying, “He has been cleared of any damage to his right side and is expected to return to the field shortly. He has bowled in the nets and is expected to be available to bowl this evening.”
“It’s amazing modern technology – he went for a scan just after the (tea) break and we were looking at his ribs on the computer screen about half an hour later. So thankfully there’s no fractures. He’s going to be sore in the cartilage between his ribs but hopefully he’ll be right to bowl tomorrow (Saturday) or in the second innings. Whether it’s tomorrow morning, but in the second innings definitely,” added Langer.