The Ashes: Aussie selectors face problem of plenty
A sensational six-wicket innings haul on debut may not be enough to keep paceman Scott Boland in the Australian team, with regular seamer Josh Hazlewood set to return from a side strain for the fourth Ashes Test in Sydney next week.
Boland, who was plucked from obscurity by selectors on Christmas Eve, was Man of the Match in the third Test in Melbourne after finishing with figures of 6/7 from four overs as England capitulated for 68 in the second innings.
Selectors are blessed with an embarrassment of bowling riches, with first-choice seamer Hazlewood expected to be fit and Mitchell Starc unlikely to be rested after Australia’s bowlers had a light workload in Melbourne.
Boland said he knows where he stands. “I understand how selection works. I’m 32 so I’ve been around the block in terms of what happens with those things,” he told host broadcaster Seven Network.
“When you’ve got a guy like Josh Hazlewood coming back in, I don’t think I’m going to be standing in his way. He’ll be coming straight back in.”
Having waited until his thirties for a debut, Boland might have another long wait for his second Test with captain Pat Cummins, Starc and Hazlewood being nailed-on selections for years.
Boland became the second indigenous Australian to play a men’s Test with his debut in Melbourne, joining trailblazer and former fast bowler Jason Gillespie. Should Boland miss out it would have echoes of Gillespie’s omission from the side after scoring 201 as a nightwatchman and taking three wickets against Bangladesh in 2006 in his 71st Test. Gillespie was Man of the Match but did not play another Test.
Seamer Jhye Richardson may also be available for selection after he missed Melbourne with a minor leg strain, having replaced Cummins in the second test in Adelaide. With the series sealed 3-0 and the Sydney Cricket Ground pitch generally conducive to turn, Australia could hand legspinner Mitchell Swepson a debut in a dual spin attack with regular Nathan Lyon, which would further cramp space for fast bowlers.
Selectors chairman George Bailey said Australia’s depth was a “great headache”. “We’d love nothing more for (Swepson) to get an opportunity but it will probably be conditions-dependent,” he said.
Silverwood to isolate
England head coach Chris Silverwood will miss the fourth Test after a family member tested positive for Covid-19 and he must isolate for 10 days, the England and Wales Cricket Board said.
The fourth Test is due to start next Tuesday. “Following the latest round of PCR tests administered to the England men’s touring party on Wednesday 29 December, one family member has tested positive,” the ECB statement read.
“As a result of the positive test, England men’s head coach Chris Silverwood will have to isolate and will miss the fourth Ashes Test.”