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Match Analysis

Neser, Boland once again show off Australia's fast-bowling depth

Even with Cummins and Hazlewood injured, Australia's pace attack seems to have enough firepower to get the job done

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
Michael Neser celebrates after nicking off Kraigg Brathwaite  •  Getty Images

Michael Neser celebrates after nicking off Kraigg Brathwaite  •  Getty Images

For the second year running, Adelaide has required Australia delve into their pace-bowling stocks. And once again they look like having plenty of firepower to get the job done.
It's the same two bowlers who are absent as well, the only difference is that Covid isn't involved. Pat Cummins' quad injury has sidelined him, while Josh Hazlewood has a side strain that, for all the positive vibes from the Australia camp, has unfortunate similarities to last season.
Cult hero Scott Boland was the initial replacement, earning his first outing since his Ashes heroics, and while Michael Neser probably had a little more time to soak in his call-up after being Cummins' Covid-replacement last year, his position as Hazlewood's cover suggested his career may be something of a Test supersub even though, like Boland, he has a claim for a much more regular berth.
There was a sense of inevitably about the first half of the day, the only surprise being that neither Marnus Labuschagne nor Travis Head converted into a double-century. It was a case of waiting for when Australia wanted to get bowling, and Steven Smith decided at 511 for 7 with half an hour until the tea break was the moment.
Boland partnered Mitchell Starc with the new ball, perhaps slightly surprising given his versatility with the older one and the fact Neser is generally more of a threat up front. But Boland was challenging from his first over and the wait for Neser hardly mattered.
He replaced Boland five overs into the final session as the lights were taking hold. Boland would end the evening wicketless, his bowling average blowing out to 10.27. "Bit flat with [Scott], he hasn't got a wicket yet, not sure what he's doing," Head joked.
Neser's second ball was a beauty, which beat the obdurate Kraigg Brathwaite, and he challenged the batters most deliveries. With the fourth ball of his third over he grazed Brathwaite's edge with a perfectly pitched wobble-seam ball.
A couple of overs later he nearly had Sharmarh Brooks twice. An edge fell short of second slip, and then Neser himself just failed to hold a sharp return catch low to his left. But Brooks did not last long. Two balls into Neser's next over, he nicked through to Alex Carey. Neser ended his first spell with 6-2-14-2.
"We see it day-in-day-out in Shield cricket," Head said. "The two in particular, Nes [Neser] and Barrel [Boland], have done it for ten years of Shield cricket. They've been around my whole career and haven't changed. They have done the same thing over and over again. It's great to see them go to the next level and continue to do the same things and do it well."
Neser returned in the final half hour of the day and thought he had had Devon Thomas caught behind in his first over back but the DRS showed daylight between bat and ball.
Instead, it was Cameron Green, another crucial part of the bowling armoury, who claimed Australia's fourth and final breakthrough of the evening in a scattergun first over that included two no-balls. But he kept his foot behind the line for the one that Thomas played down his stumps. He nearly added the valiant Tagnarine Chanderpaul, but the top-edged hook landed safely as Australia got funky with fields and tactics in the closing overs.
Australia's fast-bowling depth is enviable and will likely be much needed beyond this game. Even before this match, there was an awareness in the camp that they would need a squad of fast bowlers over the coming months.
Twelve more guaranteed Tests stretch in front of Australia by the end of next July (and 13 if they make the World Test Championship final). The next three against South Africa follow in little more than three weeks, meaning the tight turnarounds could yet make it tough for Hazlewood to return this season. The four in India take a month - there is a reasonable gap between the second and third games - while potentially six games in England, five of which make up the Ashes, are done in two months.
"We know the depth and it's exciting to have Lance [Morris] in the sheds now as well," Head said. "We are in a strong position, there's a lot of bowlers who could be in this team. We've been very fortunate to have four or five very, very good ones over the last five or six years so we haven't seen these other guys."
It was hard not to glance across to West Indies' injury-hit bench for a stark comparison, the visitors having had to cobble together an attack for this game and then lose debutant Marquino Mindley after two overs. Summoning reinforcements is much harder for a touring team - Mindley played two days after a 48-hour journey from Jamaica to Adelaide - but while West Indies' pace-bowling stocks are reasonable, they don't match Australia's. They aren't alone in that.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo