Ace Australian pacer Josh Hazlewood is hopeful of attaining fitness for the much-awaited World Test Championship (WTC) final against India at the Oval and is sweating hard in the practice sessions.
Recently, Hazlewood was battling a side issue due to which he was forced to cut short his time in the just convluded Indian Premier League (IPL) with Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) earlier this month when the injury flared up. However, he has now returned to full training and was bowling at ‘close to full pace’ when Australia enjoyed a training session at Formby Cricket Club in England’s north on Tuesday while preparaing for the WTC Final against India at The Oval, which gets underway on June 7.
The 32-year-old is confident that he will be fully fit to feature in Australia’s playing XI for the upcoming contest against India.
“My fitness is pretty good and it is just a matter of ticking off every session from here until that date (June 7) basically. We will probably have anywhere from three to four more sessions – bat versus ball and then a couple of longer days in the nets as well or centre wicket down in London – so it is just ticking off those last few boxes and pulling up well from every session,” Hazlewood was quoted as saying by ICC.
“It was pretty close (to full pace today). I came down for a little bowl yesterday just to loosen up and to get a bit more out of today’s session, so it is feeling good. After a long few travel days it is always a case of the first one getting the cobwebs out and stretching out and doing some run-throughs just to get the blood flowing. It is always good to get the first one out of the way and when we get to London we will steam in,” he added.
It was not only the side issue the star pacer was battling through as he head also picked up an Achilles injury during the third Test against South Africa at the SCG at the start of this year due to which he failed to feature during the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series in India in February and March and only returned to the bowling crease with three matches for the Royal Challengers Bangalore at the just concluded cash-rich league.
Although he had only bowled nine overs during his short stint in the IPL 2023, the star pacer expressed that he was in T20 mode and trying to utilise so many different types of deliveries may have led to his side issue.
“In T20 you are bowling a lot of various different balls every over,” Hazlewood noted.
“A wide yorker, to a bouncer, to a slower ball and it probably got jammed up a little bit and a bit of scar tissue from previous injuries flared up. It calmed down pretty quickly, I had a week off but I didn’t quite get back to going 100 percent at IPL. But the last few bowls have been good and I have been building up nicely,” he added.
After the WTC Final, Australia will take on arch-rivals and hosts England in a five-match Ashes series and Hazlewood believes that his chances of appearing in all the six Test matches are extremely slim.
The star bowler also revealed that all of Australia pacers would likely find themselves rotated in and out of the side during the six games, with captain Pat Cummins being the only fast bowler in contention to play each and every game.
“If you asked that question three years ago I probably would have said I would have liked to play all six but it is just different now,” Hazlewood said.
“It is just so tightly consumed together now and coming off not an ideal build up … but we have got enough quicks here and a couple of others playing County cricket to cover all bases. Pat is perhaps looking at (playing) all six potentially depending how much we bowl in each, so you play it by ear a little bit. It is such a dense schedule, it is tough,” he added.
With the likes of Scott Boland warming the bench and fellow pacers like Michael Neser and Sean Abbott being already in England and producing some stunning performances in the County Championship, Hazlewood thinks it may work in the visitor’s favour to have so many quality bowlers in form ahead of a hectic upcoming schedule away from home.
“Ness (Neser) was on the (Ashes) trip last time in 2019, Sab (Abbott) has always been there or thereabouts as the next cab off the rank and Scotty – everyone knows (how good he has been) in the last three or four years,” he said.
“It feels like that is what you need to win a big series like this and with six Tests in particular we are probably going to lean on every one of them,” he added.