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Boland's rise has him locked in for Brisbane

Barring a late change, Michael Neser will miss out on his home ground

Scott Boland takes off in a triple-wicket maiden, Australia vs West Indies, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 3rd Day, December 10, 2022

Scott Boland takes off in a triple-wicket maiden  •  Getty Images

After tearing through West Indies with the pink ball under lights, cementing his reputation as a fan favourite, Scott Boland has been assured of a spot in Australia's star-studded attack for the first Test against South Africa as captain Pat Cummins prepares to return from a quad injury.
Playing his first Test match since a starring role in last summer's Ashes, Boland set the Adelaide Oval alight late on day three of the second Test with three wickets in an over to rekindle memories of his remarkable 6 for 7 against England at the MCG 12 months ago.
Having taken 21 wickets at an astonishing average of just 10.33 from four Tests, Boland has become Australia's fourth pace bowler behind incumbents Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood.
But swing specialist Michael Neser, also recalled in Adelaide in his first Test since debuting against England a year ago, put his hand up with a terrific five-wicket haul in a performance marked by relentless accuracy.
While Hazlewood has been ruled out with a side strain, Cummins is on track to play in the first Test in Brisbane starting on December 17. His likely availability has caused a headache for Australia's selectors faced with the difficult choice between Boland and Neser, who particularly enjoys bowling on his home ground at the Gabba.
But Boland has been given the nod to confirm his standing as Australia's next in line paceman.
"Expecting Scott to take that spot at the Gabba. That's the running line, and he's done nothing wrong," Australia coach Andrew McDonald said. "His record is amazing at the moment, so he'll take his place and the assumption is that Pat does play. So you've got Cummins, Starc and Boland, with [Cameron] Green and [Nathan] Lyon to support around that."
Having already delivered several iconic spells in his brief Test career, 33-year-old Boland has become an unlikely cult hero.
"There is an expectation now because it's not just an outlier, it's happening every time. But it's fantastic to see the crowd embrace him," McDonald said. "It's not too often you get a Victorian embraced at the Adelaide Oval, so that was great to see."
While his immediate focus is on an expected gruelling series against South Africa, Boland's status in the upcoming BBL season is unknown having departed Hobart Hurricanes. Whether he surfaces as a replacement player later in the season will hinge on his workload against South Africa.
"It's Scott's decision, and we respect all the players that opt in or opt out for differing reasons," McDonald said. "His summers are unknown as that fourth quick in amongst the pack.
"So I think it will be assessed and see where he's at, how many Test matches he plays and where his body's at. I thought last summer he was outstanding in those three Test matches, but he was fatigued at the end of that.
"It's a huge burden, so I think he'll just see where he's at to make a decision later. He'd be pretty good in the Big Bash though."
Amid an arduous schedule of five Tests this summer in 40 days, ahead of major tours to India and England next year, injuries to Cummins and Hazlewood have underlined the importance of Australia's deep pool of reserve quicks with Western Australian tearaway Lance Morris also in the squad.
"It's just a reality, the games keep coming," McDonald said. "Last year it was Covid and injuries as well, so it wasn't by design [the number of quicks in the squad] nor has it been this early in the summer. "The short turnarounds, the nature of it....it's just a huge demand."

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth