Cricket

Australia lose Josh Hazlewood for rest of first Test

Josh Hazlewood won’t bowl again in the first Test against New Zealand after suffering a hamstring strain two balls into his second over and faces a race to play any more Tests this season.*

“Overnight MRI [scans] confirmed a left hamstring strain,” a CA spokesman said. “He will not bowl for the remainder of this test, may bat if required. Recovery to be monitored in coming weeks.”

Hazlewood had looked distraught as he made his way off after aborting his run-up and Australia will now have to push for victory with just two frontline quicks in Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins. The selectors will need to decide between James Pattinson and the uncapped Michael Neser as his replacement for the second Test at the MCG.

“It’s a little bit sore this morning,” Hazlewood told Fox Cricket. “I obviously knew as soon as I did it there was a tear there. It’s not too bad so we’ll play it by ear over the next couple of weeks. Bowlers know their bodies pretty well these days so we know when something is not quite right. The best thing to do was to come off and get it checked out. The ball was coming out really nicely and I had a couple of hours under lights up my sleeve but yeah, unlucky.

“It’s a tight series. It will be tough to get up for the last Test but we’ll see how we go. I haven’t [done a hamstring], no. I must be getting older. It’s something new as a quick so I’ll do a bit of rehab and get back on the park as quick as I can.”

Despite losing Hazlewood, Australia gave themselves a headstart in their quest for victory by having New Zealand 5 for 109 at the close after Starc claimed three wickets in his second spell, including the key scalp of Kane Williamson thanks to a brilliant catch at slip by Steven Smith, after he had removed Tom Latham in the opening over of the innings.

“It’s never nice seeing anyone go down, especially one of your best mates,” Starc said. “Not sure how the scans have come back, hopefully there’s some positivity out of that. It makes it tough, a bowler down, it certainly was for the Kiwis with Ferguson. The plus side is we have them five-for tonight and hopefully for Josh it’s not too bad. If it is going to keep him out then hopefully it’s not too big a break to get the hammy right.

Australia have played the same side in the first three Tests of the season. They enforced the follow-on against Pakistan in Adelaide, which meant a heavy workload for the quicks, but there was a week between the end of that Test and the start in Perth. Hazlewood returned to the Test side for the second match of the Ashes in August after having suffered a stress fracture of the back in January.

His injury in Perth came amid a dramatic start to New Zealand’s innings, as they lost both openers inside two overs. Latham was rushed by Starc and got a leading edge back to the bowler, and then the out-of-form Jeet Raval played around a beautiful inswinger from Hazlewood to leave them two down with just one run on the board.

Williamson and Ross Taylor managed to lead a recovery but Starc’s return in the closing stages of the day changed the complex of the match as he found Williamson’s edge, had Henry Nicholls caught down the leg side and bowled nightwatchman Neil Wagner first ball.

It continued an impressive season for Starc who is once again a lock in the Test team having only played once in the Ashes. He has so far claimed 20 wickets and feels he now has better control in Test cricket than at any time in his career following the early-season work he did with New South Wales bowling coach Andre Adams to make a small adjustment to his delivery stride.

“I think it probably is [my best control],” he said. “I think those little technical changes I made at the start of the summer have been a big part of that. I’m finding less can go wrong when I’m more compact and having that ball on my back hip.

“There was a big conscious effort to be more economical as a group through the Ashes so taking a little bit out of that, but also the technical changes have helped me not sacrifice any pace but be more consistent. It probably helps play a part in the group for the other guys as well, whereas in the past I’ve perhaps leaked runs at certain stages and the other guys have had to work a little harder. Nice to still be able to bowl but keep the runs at a controlled rate.”

With Australia now having a depleted attack for the rest of this Test, those qualities will be needed even more.

* 11.50am, Perth, December 14: This story was updated with confirmation of Hazlewood’s injury

Article source: http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/story/1209950.html?CMP=OTC-RSS

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