Brett Lee has called on Australian selectors to bring Josh Hazlewood back for the Boxing Day Test at the expense of Scott Boland. Selectors are facing a huge dilemma as Hazlewood nears his return from injury, with Boland continuing an extraordinary start to his Test career against South Africa at the Gabba.
Hazlewood has missed the last two matches due to a side strain, with Boland decimating the West Indies and South Africa in his absence. The Victorian has 25 wickets through his first five Tests at an extraordinary average of 10.36.
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However heartbreak looms for the 33-year-old, who might not get to play in front of his home fans on Boxing Day at the MCG. With Hazlewood declaring himself fit for selection, Boland looms as the man who might miss out.
According to Aussie fast bowling great Lee, selectors should resist the temptation to keep Boland in and bring Hazlewood back. He said on Wednesday night: “If Josh Hazlewood is fully fit, I‘d be going Josh Hazlewood. Nothing against Boland, he‘s a brilliant bowler and gets wickets for fun – but 58 Tests under his belt and 217 wickets in the 'Hoff' (Hazlewood)."
However Lee cautioned against bringing Hazlewood back if he isn't fully fit. He added: "He’s got to be fully fit though. Coming back from a side strain is really tough. When you think you’re ready, you’ve got to give an extra week. I think what Cricket Australia might do is rest him in Melbourne and play him up in Sydney.”
However former Test opener Simon Katich said he can't see how Boland could possibly be dropped. “I think he’s one of the first picked at the moment because he just builds pressure," Katich said on SEN radio.
“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. 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.
“He just asks really tough questions of the new batsman when they come to the crease and I think he has to play.”
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Aussie vice-captain Steve Smith said he didn't envy selectors in making the decision. “I think it’d be tough on Scotty if he gets left out for sure,” he said. “Boxing Day last year he was just incredible and he’s been incredible since he started.
“He’s got that ability to hit the stumps from probably a shorter length than a lot of the other bowlers being a little bit shorter and a bit skiddier, so brings in both sides of the bat, whereas Josh is probably a little bit more bouncy and brings in the outside edge more than the inside edge. They’re both different and I think that’s the beauty with our attack at the moment. Everyone bowls slightly different, but they’re all really good at what they do.”
Boland stunned the cricket world last summer when he destroyed England in his Test debut at the MCG, taking 6-7 in the second innings. However his five Tests have only come after injuries to Australia's front-line pace attack in Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc.
"He's become a specialist everywhere a little bit," chief selector George Bailey said. "He was on the radar for the MCG last year because of exactly what we've seen him do."
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