Josh Hazlewood appears unlikely to be able to bowl again in the Perth Test after suffering a left hamstring strain two balls into his second over of New Zealand’s first innings.
He aborted his run-up and looked distraught as he slowly made his way to the dressing room. It was confirmed he would be having scans in the evening. In all likelihood his Test was over and Australia will have to push for victory with just two frontline quicks in Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins.
However, they gave themselves a headstart in that aim 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 likely to have a depleted attack for the rest of this Test, those qualities will be needed even more.