In a massive blow for Australia, pacer Hazlewood has been ruled out of the upcoming World Test Championship (WTC) Final against India due to his ongoing left Achilles and left side issue.
The marquee clash is set to be played from June 7 at the historic Oval in London.
Meanwhile, bowling all-rounder Michael Neser has been named as a replacement for injured Hazlewood in Australia squad for the one-off Test.
Neser, who has only featured in two Tests and as many ODIs for Australia, has been inducted in for the WTC Final squad after the approval by the Event Technical Committee.
Earlier this year, Hazlewood had also missed the India tour due to a left Achilles tendon issue, which also delayed his arrival in Indian Premier League (IPL) 2023. Hazlewood was forced to leave the showpiece tournament after featuring in only three games for Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) due to a side issue.
Meanwhile, Hazlewood had also missed a majority of the last two home summers due to side strains and his absence now means that Neser and specialist pacer Scott Boland are in contention for the third pacer slot and partner with captain Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc.
However, Australia chief selector George Bailey has said that Hazlewood should be available for selection for the first Ashes Test against England at Edgbaston, starting from June 16.
“Josh was very, very close to being given the green light but we are cognisant that our upcoming schedule means this is not a one-off Test match of us,” Bailey was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au.
Due to regular injuries, Hazlewood has played only four of Australia’s last 19 Test matches in the last couple of years and has not featured in consecutive first-class games since early 2021 and was included for the WTC Final squad subject to coming through heavy training loads.
Recently, Hazlewood had expressed that he was hopeful of being ready for the marquee clash at The Oval and had worked hard in the training session on Saturday.
On the other hand, Neser has scored 311 runs beside picking up 19 wickets, with scores of 123, 86 and 90 so far being a standout from his time in the county championship with Glamorgan. Though he was not included in the initial 17-man Australia squad for the WTC Final and Ashes, Neser and Sean Abbott were training with the Test side at Beckenham.
“Michael’s County form has been strong and knowing that he was going to be close by allowed for him to keep playing and for us to be able to call on him. He is a great strength to have as part of the fast bowling group. This will give Josh an ideal preparation leading into Edgbaston. With six Test matches in a little over seven weeks we will need all of our fast bowling assets,” added Bailey, the former Australia cricketer.
Updated Australia squad: Pat Cummins (captain), Scott Boland, Alex Carey (wicketkeeper), Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Josh Inglis (wicketkeeper), Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Todd Murphy, Michael Neser, Steve Smith (vice-captain), Mitchell Starc and David Warner
Standby players: Mitch Marsh, Matthew Renshaw