Prior to Headingley, where the Ashes may be won, Australia’s selectors are likely to be most concerned about the hazards of asking Josh Hazlewood to play in three straight Tests.
Todd Murphy’s selection to take the place of the injured Nathan Lyon is all but assured, but when Hazlewood played at Lord’s, it marked the first time since 2020–21, after a string of injuries, that he had played consecutive Tests.
In order to be prepared for the Ashes, he was kept out of the World Test Championship final against India. Since then, he has bowled 56 overs in two Tests and taken eight wickets, but his economy is 4.64. Even if the third Test starts just three days after Lord’s, the workload may cause the selectors some hesitation.
The captain, Pat Cummins, said: “He’d be the obvious one you’d be a bit more careful of.” “So far, the tour has gone as well for him as he could have hoped – no injuries, but for the past year or two, he has been in rather unfamiliar area.
“I believe that topic will come up for discussion. I believe he bowled 25 and 35 [25 and 31], which aren’t particularly high totals, but you have to compare this game to the past two to see how he’s doing, so we’ll work through that.
It is a swift reversal, he continued. “It’s certainly a big game, but there are still three games left. In light of the fact that there are a few young players waiting on the bench who can go in right away, you don’t want to put anyone at higher risk than necessary.
The two remaining Tests at Old Trafford and The Oval would still carry significant WTC points with this series being the first in the new cycle when Australia is the defending champion. The major reward of retaining the Ashes with a series victory can be earned at Headingley.
Scott Boland would be the most likely substitute if Hazlewood were to sit out of this game, ahead of Michael Neser, who has been kept in the lineup. Boland participated in the first Test at Edgbaston, when England took him for over a run per ball, but Cummins had no reservations about his comeback.
Boland has been held to such high standards due of his excellent bowling, according to Cummins. “You saw how damaging he could be in that brief period where the odds were on our side.”
David Warner mentioned the challenges he was having during the Lord’s Test, but Cummins was not aware of them being a worry and Warner scored on Tuesday.
“I saw him icing them at one stage in the changeroom, and then him talking about it was the only time I’d heard of it,” he added. Therefore, I don’t think it’s a problem.
After winning the WTC, victory at Headingley would solidify the legacy of this Australian Test team by marking the first away Ashes series victory since 2001. Although he acknowledged there were conflicting emotions, Cummins was a key player in the 2019 series that ended in a drawn 2-2 tie and led to the urn’s retention.
“I think everyone felt a little bit differently about it,” he remarked. “There was a tremendous celebration in Manchester when we won that Test match to keep it, and some people, including me, kind of wondered if you celebrated when you kept it. I truly had no idea. The objective is to win a series outright since for me that is what matters most. One of these final three Test matches is what we aim to achieve.