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Hazlewood ruled out of opening Test against South Africa

Pat Cummins is expected to return after recovering from a quad strain

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins plot West Indies' downfall, Australia vs West Indies, 1st Test, Perth, 3rd day, December 2, 2022

Josh Hazlewood is out but Pat Cummins is on course to face South Africa  •  Getty Images

Josh Hazlewood has been ruled out of the opening Test against South Africa due to the side strain he picked up last week but Australia captain Pat Cummins is on track to return at the Gabba as the tight Test schedule continues to challenge the fast bowlers.
The selectors have named a 14-player squad for the Test which starts on Saturday in Brisbane with uncapped Lance Morris retained after he was called up against the West Indies game in Adelaide.
It seems likely that Cummins, who had a quad strain, will return in place of Michael Neser with Scott Boland, who produced a triple-wicket maiden on Saturday evening in Adelaide, set to retain his place. However Neser, who plays for Queensland, has an outstanding first-class record at the Gabba with 77 wickets at 19.46.
Cummins bowled on the outfield ahead of play on the third and fourth days in Adelaide and again in the nets on Monday where he sent down six overs at good intensity. He will need to come through Australia's main training session in Brisbane on Thursday but everything points to him slotting back in.
"Pat continues to improve, bowled with freedom on Saturday and appears likely to play this match although Josh will need more time," national selector George Bailey said. "Michael bowled superbly in Adelaide, as did Scott. We were impressed as always with their performances that backed up what they have achieved in the past. Lance is a very exciting prospect who will benefit from time with the squad. With so much cricket ahead, we continue to seek opportunities to grow and maintain our fast-bowling experience and depth."
For Hazlewood, who reported some soreness after the final day in Perth and was then unable to get through a bowling stint the day before Adelaide, there are unfortunate similarities to last season where he picked up a side strain in the opening match of the Ashes and was then ruled out of the series. The hope this time is that he will have the chance to play in Melbourne or Sydney, but the turnaround during the series is very tight. He left Adelaide early to head home to Sydney but will rejoin the Test squad in Brisbane to continue his rehab.
"The side strain is at the most minor end of the spectrum we could hope for," Nick Jones, the Australia physio, said. "It's a different area of injury [to last season]. At the moment the turnaround time we are expecting is a bit quicker.
"He's certainly a chance for Boxing Day, and if he wasn't to come up for that we certainly think he is a live option for Sydney as well. But you can't always predict accurately. Sides can be a tricky thing, you can't always predict exactly how soon that will settle down. But everything is working in his favour because it is at the minor end and he hasn't lost any strength or any power."
The longest gap between Tests this summer is just four days, although the early finish in Adelaide granted a bonus day off. Australia's frontline quicks all came into the Test summer on the back of the T20 World Cup then ODIs against England and Jones admitted it was a challenging schedule.
"If you're playing all formats there's no other option there," he said. "If you are going to play T20s and the ODIs and the Test series as well, there is going to be a natural progression. We were quite comfortable that moving from T20s to multiple ODIs as a an ideal world if the schedule would allow a longer period of build up that would help all our quicks. But we do what we can with the schedule we've got.
"It's a big challenge. The schedule is dense. The reason they do all the work and all the fitness work in the background and all their training loads are executed to a really high level is to get them through that. But there is no doubt it is a challenge."
The performances of Neser and Boland in Adelaide highlighted the pace-bowling depth Australia have on offer.
"The fact guys are coming in and doing great jobs, it's great for stocks," stand-in captain Steven Smith said. "They are all different, the way they go about. Boland and Neser, they are a little more skiddy and bring the stumps into play a little bit more than Cummo and Hoff [Hazlewood]."
Australia squad David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steven Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Scott Boland, Michael Neser, Marcus Harris, Lance Morris

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo