Cricket fans are throwing their support behind Scott Boland amid a harsh truth facing the Aussie fast bowler going into the Boxing Day Test. Boland and the Aussies will head to the MCG for the iconic match, 1-0 up in the three-game series against South Africa are ripping through the Proteas inside two days at the Gabba.
Boland finished with match figures of 4-42 in Australia's devastating six-wicket victory in Brisbane, highlighted by a treacherous green pitch at the Gabba that has come under fire from around the cricket world. It means Boland has now taken 25 wickets at an average of 10.36, following his heroics during Australia's series clean sweep against the West Indies.
The Victorian was called up to Australia's starting XI to replace the injured Josh Hazlewood, who is working hard to overcome a side strain suffered in the first Test against the West Indies in Perth. Hazlewood has missed the last two Tests, with Boland filling the void with aplomb, after claiming the astonishing match figures of 9-26 against the Windies in Adelaide.
However, Boland faces the very real prospect of being dropped for Hazlewood, if the veteran fast bowler passes his fitness test for the Boxing Day Test. Hazlewood bowled in the Gabba nets on Sunday as Australia went 1-0 up against South Africa, however, he is yet to declare himself a certainty for selection at the MCG as he works to get back to full fitness.
"It's obviously a couple of sessions away," Hazlewood told the Seven Network on Sunday. "If I'm ticking a box (on December 24) and bowling probably two spells of four or five overs with a break in between that's the final tick that we're looking for.
"Then I'll be available for selection hopefully. Build up over the next week and a half and finally tick that last box on the 24th, hopefully."
Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting said during the first Test against the Proteas that Hazlewood deserves to be recalled to the starting XI if he is fit for the Boxing Day Test. The 31-year-old has earned his spot on the Australian bowling pecking order.
Scott Boland facing harsh truth for Boxing Day Test
That being said, Boland's omission would be extremely harsh on a bowler who famously burst onto the scene during last year's Ashes series, taking figures of 6-7 in the second innings to power Australia to a series-clinching 3-0 lead. The Victorian quick's reputation as an MCG specialist makes the Hazlewood scenario even more fascinating.
Hazlewood has been one of Australia's most reliable red-ball bowlers for almost a decade with 217 wickets in 58 Tests. Captain and World No.1-ranked bowler Pat Cummins clearly will not make way, while tall left-armer Mitchell Starc on Sunday brought up his 300th Test wicket and remains in outstanding form.
Cameron Green is the other pace bowling option in Australia's arsenal but the batting allrounder's position in the starting XI would be considered all but assured, and the catching ability he offers in and around the slips cordon are second to none. It essentially leaves Boland as the most likely man to make way, if Hazlewood does come back into the side.
Australian selectors are likely to leave it right up until the last minute to name their starting side for the second Test against the Proteas, in which another win for Australia would see the hosts wrap up the series. While some fans agree with Ponting that, if fit, Hazlewood deserves to be recalled, an overwhelming sentiment on social media is that Boland has done more than enough to justify his selection.
I think we should keep Scott Boland in ahead of Hazlewood. Proven that he's more than capable at this level. And it's good for Australian cricket to have an Indigenous player representing an important part of culture. Boland by far the best bowler in ages by average.
— henryinnis (@HenryInnis) December 18, 2022
Might be an unpopular opinion but even if Josh Hazlewood is fit for the Boxing Day test , I’m 100% still picking Boland ahead of him .
— Chris Lumsden (@Chris2Far86) December 18, 2022
Would be incredibly stiff but Ricky Ponting predicting a Boxing Day spent running drinks for Scott Boland at the MCG.
"If Hazlewood is fit he deserves to come straight back in"
Hazlewood bowling in the Gabba nets on road back from a side strain (via @7cricket) #AUSvSA
— Andrew McCormack (@_AMcCormack7) December 18, 2022
Boland's in great form while Hazlewood's fitness still seems touch-and-go, surely this is not a terribly hard decision? https://t.co/O5CJO2CTU4
— Website User (Parody) (@chrisjoregan) December 18, 2022
If all bowlers are fit for Boxing Day is it Boland or Hazlewood? #AUSvSA
Josh still ahead in pecking order from my POV.
— Oliver Peterson (@oliverpeterson) December 18, 2022
Boland has overtaken hazlewood in the starting 3 pace bowlers for the test side. #AUSvSA
— Matthew Humphreys (@MattHumphreys11) December 18, 2022
— E.R.L (@Aussie_Burgher) December 18, 2022
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