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Australia confident in Hazlewood's fitness despite side soreness

The fast bowler left the IPL early but has since returned to bowling ahead of the WTC final and Ashes

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
22-May-2023
Josh Hazlewood's Test cricket has been limited in recent times  •  Cricket Australia via Getty Images

Josh Hazlewood's Test cricket has been limited in recent times  •  Cricket Australia via Getty Images

Josh Hazlewood, who has missed substantial Test cricket over the last couple of years through injury, flew home early from the IPL after reporting side soreness although scans in Australia did not show any damage. He has since returned to bowling ahead of the squad's departure to the UK at the end of the week for the World Test Championship (WTC) final and the Ashes.
Hazlewood played the last of his three games for Royal Challengers Bangalore on May 9 and bowled a total of nine overs in IPL 2023.
"Josh Hazlewood returned home from the IPL last weekend after experiencing minor side soreness after the completion of his most recent IPL match," a CA spokesperson said.
"After a brief and precautionary rest period, Hazlewood returned to high intensity bowling last week and will continue to increase his bowling workloads in preparation for the WTC and Ashes series. Hazlewood is considered fit and available for the WTC and Ashes Series."
Following a delayed arrival, Hazlewood's IPL stint had been his return to action after his tour of India ended early due to an Achilles injury he sustained against South Africa at the SCG in January. That, itself, had been a comeback game after he suffered a side strain against West Indies in Perth, having also gone down with one during the 2021-22 Ashes in which he missed four of the Tests.
Since the start of that England series, Hazlewood has only been able to play four Tests, although in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, that was due to the balance of Australia's side where they included the extra spinner.
He was excellent on his return against South Africa earlier this year where he was potent with reverse swing and claimed five wickets in the match. When Hazlewood was selected at the SCG in place of Scott Boland as one of two quicks it showed that he remained in a first-choice attack. In England he has taken 36 wickets at 23.58 from eight Tests.
Over that same period where his Tests have been limited, Hazlewood's stature as a T20 bowler has risen enormously and he reached No. 1 in the rankings in June 2022 after helping Australia win the T20 World Cup for the first time.
However, before the Sydney Test last summer he spoke about the challenges of preparing for Test cricket as a multi-format bowler
"If you have to focus on either a strength period or bowl a few more balls at training when you are playing with the white ball, at the detriment of maybe not being 100 percent for those games, then it puts you in a better place for a Test series that follows," he said. "Just little things like that we're talking about with coaches or medical staff. That will be something I'll look to do in the next little period."
While Australia are confident of having dodged a significant injury concern just days before leaving for the UK, they do have extra resources to call on if needed. Michael Neser and Sean Abbott, who have been playing for Glamorgan and Surrey respectively, will link up with the squad for their training camp ahead of the WTC final against India.
Neser rounded off the most recent Championship match against Sussex with a century having previously taken a career-best 7 for 32, including a hat-trick, against Yorkshire.
Australia initially named a 17-player squad for the tour but that needs to be trimmed to 15 names for the final by May 28.
As has become the norm for them there is no tour match in the lead-up with the squad instead training at Beckenham, south of London, ahead of the final lead-in to facing India on June 7. All six Tests on the tour are played in less than two months.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo