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No Hazlewood, no worries with Green cherry-ripe

Hazlewood won't play on Boxing Day but Cameron Green emergence as a like-for-like replacement has caused England captain Joe Root problems

Alex Malcolm
Alex Malcolm
Cameron Green took his maiden Test wicket, Australia vs England, The Ashes, 1st Test, Day 1, The Gabba, Brisbane, December 8, 2021

Cameron Green has stepped up after Josh Hazlewood's side strain  •  CA/Cricket Australia/Getty Images

Josh Hazlewood won't play in the Boxing Day Test and there might have been a time when the sight of their big quick standing at the back of the nets not participating in training would have been a cause for concern for Australia.
But Cameron Green's emergence in this series as a bona fide Test bowler, who has earned his place as a top-six batter, has completely changed the dynamics for this Australian team and given the selectors confidence to not rush any of their big quicks back from injury.
Hazlewood's side strain needs more time, but the other quicks looked in fine fettle at the MCG nets on Christmas Eve with Mitchell Starc bowling superbly and showing no signs of the rib issue that flared while batting in Adelaide.
With Pat Cummins set to return, Jhye Richardson looks on track to keep his place following his five-wicket haul which means Michael Neser is likely to miss out.
Green was hardly used on the final day in Adelaide with Australia's stand-in captain Steven Smith revealing that team management had suggested Smith avoid bowling him for workload reasons although Smith did turn to him late in the day as England's resistance lingered longer than expected.
But Green said he was ready to go if called upon and is feeling fine in the lead-up to Boxing Day.
"I was completely fine and ready to go," Green said. "It's just we're in a really good position. I think Nathan Lyon was bowling beautifully from one end, and then we've got three world-class pace bowlers to choose from so I wasn't really required.
"I think they just thought we could probably get through the game without bowling me. And then keep me even more fresh for this game."
Green talked about himself as Australia's fifth bowler who is just there to "keep it tight at my end and give the other guys a bit of a spell." But's he's been far more than that in this series so far. In Hazlewood's absence, he has become Joe Root's nemesis. Hazlewood has dismissed Root 8 times in Test cricket, more than any other bowler in the world.
Since Hazlewood's side strain, Green has stepped as Australia's most like-for-like replacement to knock over Root twice in three innings, with Green's extra height and bounce, much like Hazlewood, causing the England captain problems.
"I've played two poor shots to him," Root said of his dismissals to Green. "The one thing that he brings to the table is that extra bit of bounce.
"The danger we get sucked into in these conditions is it doesn't do as much as it does in England. So you feel like you can play at balls more frequently and you end up getting sucked into playing the shot that you don't need to. I think that's the most frustrating thing on my part, an experienced batter shouldn't be making that mistake twice in two games. Hence why I've been doing the work and I expect better from myself."
Green believes he is doing anything specific at his end and has felt he has been fortuitous on two occasions.
"It's a bit of fun a moment, isn't it?" Green said. "I've just got very simple plans to him. Basically, just keep it tight, hold it from one end, and the other guys do their job.
"I've just got lucky a couple of times.
"But he's a world-class player. And even the scores he's got so far, he obviously hasn't got a hundred but he's batting beautifully out in the middle. So we've got to be on our game again."
For as well as Green has bowled, his primary role in the team is as a top-six batter. He is yet to really settle at Test level after six Test matches despite dominating Sheffield Shield cricket over the last two years. He made 33 not out in the second innings in Adelaide after having his off-stump knocked back by Ollie Robinson and Ben Stokes for 0 and 2 in his first two innings of the series.
Green's setup and preliminary movement for both dismissals were forensically critiqued by former Australia captain Ricky Ponting on Channel Seven's broadcast of the Adelaide Test. Green has seen Ponting's breakdown and has worked on making the necessary adjustments.
But Green admitted that he was still trying to get mentally comfortable with playing at Test level, mirroring a process he needed to go through at first-class level a few years ago.
"It's definitely something I'm still working on," Green said. "You still get a bit overwhelmed when you go out to bat or bowl. But I think that's pretty natural for any 22-year-old playing Test cricket. That's definitely something to work on, but it's a work in progress."

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo