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Hazlewood looking to play 'at least three' Ashes Tests

Injury, as well as an abundance of caution, have seen him play just four Tests in the last two years

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
Josh Hazlewood poses with the ball for a photo session before the WTC final, The Oval, London, June 2, 2023

Josh Hazlewood poses with the ball for a photo session before the WTC final  •  ICC via Getty Images

History could be about to repeat itself for Josh Hazlewood as he waits to see whether his services will be required for the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston. But while he accepts playing the whole series is unlikely given his recent injury record, anything fewer than three appearances would leave him disappointed.
One of Hazlewood (222 Test wickets at 25.83), Mitchell Starc (310 wickets at 27.64) or Scott Boland (33 wickets at 14.57) will not make Australia's side on Friday, with the decision likely to be between the two senior quicks after Boland's impact in the World Test Championship final against India added to his fairytale start in Test cricket.
Neither Hazlewood or Starc made Australia's starting XI four years ago with James Pattinson and Peter Siddle joining Pat Cummins. Hazlewood, who had missed the preceding ODI World Cup through injury, would go on to play the remaining four games, taking 20 wickets at 21.85 in the 2-2 draw where Australia retained the urn.
"If we go back a few years, I would have said [I expected to play] all six [Tests]. But I guess it's a little bit different now, based on the last two years of history," he said. "I think three would be nice pass and four is probably a tick. Any more than that is great. Any less then I am probably a little disappointed again.
"But I think when you have that depth for each game you [can] really go as hard as you can and then reassess after the game because you always have someone of high quality sitting on the pine and ready to go. So it's a great position to be in for the team."

Two years, four Tests for Hazlewood

A very cautious approach was taken with Hazlewood for the Test Championship final after two years which has seen him play just four Test matches. He returned home from the tour of India with an Achilles injury caused by soft run-ups at the SCG in his previous comeback Test in January and was then withdrawn from the final after leaving the IPL early with side soreness.
"I think if it was a one-off game I probably could have played," he said. "[But] with what's coming up now, it just would have been too big of a risk. This sets me up nicely if I'm selected for game one, then we have a nice rest after and we'll take it from there."
Captain Pat Cummins has stated that he wants to play all six Tests on this trip. Meanwhile, Scott Boland believes that it will be tough unless a couple of the games have early finishes. Having missed so much Test cricket of late, Hazlewood is desperate to get his place back but also has tempered expectations.
"Think having those [fast bowling] options helps that mindset," he said. "No doubt you still want to play every game and it's hard to sit on the sidelines and watch. No shying away from that.
"But potentially if you [have] back-to-back Tests and you bowl 50 overs and you've someone [like] Boland, Starc or myself on the bench, fresh and ready to go for the next Test, it makes those conversations a little bit easier. The guys are a little bit more open to it to create that longevity. Perhaps the all-format guys are more open to it than others."
He also acknowledged the depth of Australia's attack means that bowlers don't push themselves beyond breaking point. "You might miss one or two games with a niggle rather than pushing it and missing three or four months," he said.

Hazlewood's outstanding English record

With 222 Test wickets and 36 at 23.58 in England, Hazlewood does not need to prove his credentials, although there are perhaps questions marks around his durability even though coaches and medical staff have been at pains not to link his run of injuries (four of the Tests he missed were also due to conditions in Pakistan and Sri Lanka).
He admitted to wanting to make statement when he returned against South Africa in January where he bowled impressively and found reverse swing, only for his exertions as part of a two-man pace attack to sideline him again, but now the overriding emotion is one of anticipation.
"I probably felt that maybe a little bit more in Sydney leading into that game. I think in England, my record is pretty good. Pretty confident in these conditions," he said. "What's exciting is probably what England have done the last 18 months. It's what a few of us need to get the best out of ourselves."

England still get out the same way

With India having been dealt with to secure the World Test Championship, Australia's quick bowlers will sit down over the next 48 overs to map out their plans for England's Bazballing batting line-up but they won't be reinventing the wheel. They are familiar with the majority of the players, although the statistic about Ben Duckett only leaving eight deliveries so far in his Test cricket pricked Hazelwood's interest.
"That's a quite amazing," he said. "Obviously he likes bat on ball. So [we will] try and use that to our advantage as best we can.
"While we are bowling at their batsmen it's about sticking to that six to eight metre length. Think what we've seen through the numbers in the last 18 months to two years, they are still getting out in similar ways, they are just scoring more runs quickly in between. So it's about sticking to that line and length. If they hit us off that for five Tests then that's good for them."

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo