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Hazlewood's Ashes reality check

Australia's batsmen were not the only members of the touring party to struggle with the moving ball in England.

Josh Hazlewood fell markedly short of expectations during the Ashes, unable to find the sort of consistency that had made him such a formidable bowler in his early matches against India and the West Indies, and ultimately withdrawn from the final Test of the series at the Oval.

Now refreshed by several weeks away from the game, Hazlewood is competing against Peter Siddle, among others, for a spot in the Test XI to face New Zealand, and will be aided by the fact he has much greater command of the Kookaburra ball down under than he could muster with the Dukes projectile in England. He is also better aware of the mental toll of international cricket, which during the Ashes left him, an uncomplicated New South Wales country product, overthinking things by his own admission.

"It was the longest Test series of my career so far," Hazlewood said. "I think I just slowly went downhill from halfway through that third Test - a bit of fatigue, whether it was mentally or physically, I am not too sure. I started bowling a few loose deliveries and, obviously, didn't quite do my role to the best that I have before in keeping it tight and keeping those dots piled up.

"The [different] Dukes ball in the West Indies I found pretty easy to handle. I think it was the overhead conditions as well that played a part in England, just to land that ball in the same spot over and over, it's quite easy in Australia with the Kookaburra where it doesn't do as much off the wicket and in the air. It was a bit more a challenge, especially on those two wickets in Tests three and four. We saw how well the English guys did it, and it's something to work on for next time, definitely."

Hazlewood's temperament had impressed many, but the pressures of the Ashes took him to emotional and physical places he had not previously experienced. The confidence built up in the Caribbean ebbed away, to the point where at Trent Bridge during the fourth Test he did not look international class. With the Ashes gone, Hazlewood was told during a tour match in Northampton he would not play the final Test, and his initially wounded reaction gave way to greater perspective once he returned home.

"Looking back definitely," Hazlewood said, when asked whether the emotion of the occasion affected him more than he had expected. "It was the biggest series I've played in, a similar feeling to the World Cup, but it gets a bit much sometimes and the emotion can play on your mind and you start thinking a bit too much about the game. I think the less I think about bowling the better I go most of the time, so try to keep it pretty simple.

"Playing six or seven first-class games in a row I don't think I'd done that in my career up to that time, so Rod Marsh and Boof (Lehmann) came up and said 'I think we'll start the rest period now'. They'd already won the Ashes by then, so it was a bit of an opportunity in a pretty hectic schedule to start that time off bowling and have that time to refresh and get that strength back and come back now a little bit fitter and fresher than I was."

As Mitchell Starc enjoys a rest after his dominant displays in the opening four games of the Matador Cup, Hazlewood will resume with NSW for the back end of the competition. It means he will have the first opportunity to press his case while Siddle languishes in the Victoria viewing area, a vantage point that has frustrated Australia's selectors.

"With all the quicks going around now ... there is always competition for spots," Hazlewood said. "Obviously, Sidds is quite similar to my role in the way that he bowls. I don't always see it as head to head but there is always competition there."