Hazlewood focused on 'not trying too hard'
Josh Hazlewood will lead Australia's attack in the Test series in New Zealand confident that he has learnt from the mistakes he made on last year's Ashes tour. Hazlewood will join two of James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Jackson Bird and Chadd Sayers in Australia's frontline pace attack for the first Test in Wellington and he will do so as the most consistent presence in a group that has changed significantly in the past few months.
In England for the Ashes, which was Australia's most recent overseas tour, Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc were the more established members of Australia's pace line-up, but Johnson has retired since then and Starc is still recovering from ankle surgery. Hazlewood collected 16 wickets at 25.75 during that series, hardly figures to be concerned about, but he readily admits he was trying for too many wicket-taking deliveries.
What the Australians want from Hazlewood in New Zealand, where there will again be swing on offer for the fast men, is consistent lines and lengths, rather than trying too many different things. Although Australia do not have a red-ball warm-up match ahead of the first Test, some have seen something of the local conditions during three ODIs, in which Hazlewood took seven wickets, and others during a Sheffield Shield game in Lincoln.
"Three one-dayers, it's not perfect but it's pretty close I think," Hazlewood said of Australia's preparation. "The fact we've been playing in these conditions against their batting order, it's pretty similar in Test cricket and one-dayers. And a few of the guys obviously played in that Shield game [near] Christchurch. I think the build-up has been really good and we'll be ready to go.
"The wickets will do a fair bit in New Zealand, so it's a matter of putting the ball in the right area and not trying too hard. I was a victim of that in England, of trying to do too much, whereas you've still got to hit that line and length and let the ball do its work."
One area in which the Australians will need to improve is their tendency to overstep, which twice cost Pattinson the wicket of West Indian Carlos Brathwaite during the Boxing Day Test at the MCG. To that end, in the Basin Reserve nets on Wednesday they trialled a prototype of a new device that can sense where the front foot lands and determine when bowlers have delivered no-balls at training.
The Australians know that there are several batsmen in the New Zealand line-up who could punish them if given such a reprieve, most notably Kane Williamson, who did not have significant impact in the recent ODI series but piled on the runs against them at the start of the summer. Williamson also has a strong record at the Basin Reserve, where he averages 85.50 from six Tests.
"I still think he's a better Test player than a one-day player," Hazlewood said. "He's great at both but we have to get him out in Test cricket and I think the way we bowled to him in these last three games has been pretty much spot on. We've tried to tie him down and get him driving so that's going to be the key in these Test matches.
"He showed in Australia how good a player he is and I think he's got runs against every country in the world. So he knows these conditions well so we've got get on top of him and try and get him early. I think he's that rock in their order that they feed off."
However, one man who performed well during the one-day series was Martin Guptill, who made two half-centuries from three matches, but they are hopeful that under the pressure of patient red-ball cricket Guptill might return to his struggles of the past against the Australians. During the Tests in Australia earlier in the summer he struggled to have any impact, with a top score of 23.
"I think we did get the better of him in Australia," Hazlewood said of Guptill. "He plays a lot differently in Tests compared to one-dayers. He's quite confident in limited-overs games, he knows his game really well at the top of the order. But I think he's still a bit uncertain in the Test arena so we'll be looking to exploit that again and stay on top of him, as we've done in Australia."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale