DUBAI: Experienced Australia seamer Josh Hazlewood has provided an update on his fitness ahead of next week’s ICC World Test Championship Final in London.
Hazlewood has been battling a side issue in recent times and had to cut short his time in the Indian Premier League (IPL) with Royal Challengers Bangalore earlier this month when the injury flared up.
But Hazlewood has 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 in preparation for the one-off Test against India at The Oval that commences on June 7.
The session at the picturesque ground in Formby was just the second time Hazlewood had rolled his arm over since arriving in England last week and the 32-year-old is confident he will be fit to feature in Australia’s XI for the upcoming Test 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,” Hazlewood said.
“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.
“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.”
The side issue Hazlewood is attempting to overcome isn’t the only concern the tall quick has been battling in 2023, with the right-armer also picking up an Achilles injury during the third Test against South Africa at the SCG at the start of the year.
It meant Hazlewood 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 Royal Challengers Bangalore at the IPL.
While Hazlewood only bowled nine overs during his stint in the domestic Indian league, the veteran seamer said the fact 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.”
With Australia set to take on arch-rival England in a five-match Ashes series following the one-off clash with India, Hazlewood knows his chances of appearing in all six Test matches are extremely unlikely.
Hazlewood revealed all of Australia’s quicks would likely find themselves rotated in and out of the side during the matches, with skipper Pat Cummins the only fast bowler in contention to play 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.”
And with the likes of Scott Boland waiting in the wings and fellow fast bowlers Michael Neser and Sean Abbott already in England and producing some eye-catching performances in the County Championship, Hazlewood thinks it may work in Australia’s favour to have so many quality quicks in form ahead of such a hectic upcoming schedule.
“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.
“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.”