The last time England and Australia clashed against one another was at the starting of the year. Touring Australia for a comprehensive bilateral series, England made news for its ODI exploits Down Under. In winning the ODIs comfortably by 4-1, the only 50-0ver contest that they lost came at the Adelaide Oval. One man who saved Australia from the verge of an embarrassing series whitewash stood like a giant and subdued England, seemingly an army powered by samurais facing what resembled ruthlessly battered urchins.
That man was Josh Hazlewood, a hero who helped Australia avoid Whitewash.
In the 4th ODI at Adelaide, Josh Hazlewood emerged with a match-winning 3-for. He removed the likes of Buttler and Bairstow, the batting planks of contemporary England line-up.
Incidentally, this was to be the only contest where he picked up some wickets, after having clinched only 2 more wickets previously but ending up being pounded by the English.
But what about this time?
So this time around, as Australia prepare to travel to England, in a reversal of the earlier itinerary, they would be feeling hampered and wounded.
No Josh Hazelwood for Australia vs England
In fact, this may be cutting a dour face altogether. The only bowler at the back of whose efforts they were able to avoid a clean-sweep won’t be there to challenge England.
England will be happy to face a Hazlewood-less Australia as the Tim Paine-led side arrives in England in June to participate in a limited-overs series.
While Hazlewood picked up a lower back issue, the extent of the injury thankfully not being too serious, the mishap is surely going to test Australia’s mettle, a side already embittered by the key absences of Smith and Warner.
Who forms Australia’s bowling force now?
While the batting unit still looks compelling with the presence of Glenn Maxwell, Aaron Finch, Travis Head, it’s the bowling force that needs to step up.
While a replacement to Hazlewood has been announced in the form of uncapped player Michael Neser, a Pretoria-born all-rounder who’s played a fair share of T20 cricket, it’ll be important for the right-hander to step in, if he gets a chance.
Together with the vital limited-overs experience of Andrew Tye, spin ace Nathan Lyon, the onus will be on Billy Stanlake and Kane Richardson to come to a visibly-depleted Australian bowling’s rescue. Above all, an important factor that’ll lend credibility to Australia’s chances at England would be the presence of Kane Richardson, a noted performer in ODI arena despite a young career.
But Australia’s woes don’t end with Josh Hazlewood’s absence.
Their leading all-rounder, and among the only player in a select list of Smith and Starc who seemed to be in some element against England the last they played (in The Ashes)- Mitchell Marsh- is out with an injury too.
From June 13-27, playing 5 ODIs and 1 T20, Australia surely have their task cut out in the absence of the frontline bowling arsenal: Josh Hazlewood.
So far the Starc-Hazlewood pair, often hampered by Starc’s picking of injuries seems all set to be the key absentee from what could be a vicious English tour, given that there’s no official word yet on Mitchell Starc’s return. The plight of that jaded right bone in the leg continues to scar Starc’s international cricket.
Mired in injuries and challenged by a set-up that echoes inconsistencies and lack of match-winners, how dearly will Hazlewood’s absence cost Australia?
One wonders that maybe stars like Travis Head, Aaron Finch and Maxwell will have to play out of their skins to avoid what could very realistically be a familiar re-run of Australia’s bashing at the hands of the English.
But that said, someone like Andrew Tye, bolstered by a good run of form in the IPL, would be raring to go. Can Australia make it count in England?
The first ball begins June 13 at Kennington Oval, London.
Tim Paine (C/WK), Michael Neser, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, Ashton Agar, Travis Head, Alex Carey, Shaun Marsh, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, D Arcy Short, Billy Stanlake.