The Australian selectors will put their faith in the judgment of Josh Hazlewood as he balances tough choices with five quick steps in the form of the fourth Ashes Test.
Hazlewood spent about 35 minutes of leisurely bowling at the MCG Nets on Thursday, and still had some discomfort coming back from sideloading.
The session was Hazlewood’s first bowling in nearly three weeks, after he injured his side in Ash’s opening game at Gabba and lost the next two Tests.
With the series already in Australia’s favour, there is an argument that Hazlewood should be given more time to recover. But chief specialist George Bailey said his committee would not prevent Hazlewood from returning if appropriate.
“I am very confident that Hof knows his body and trusts his own body,” Bailey said. “He will develop as he does before every test. He will talk to him a lot [assistant] Andrew MacDonald ON [physio] David Beckley to see how it goes. If Huff is confident and says he’s right to go, I think we support him. He’s earned that confidence.”
Bailey also noted that Australia’s win in Melbourne means Mitchell Stark will not be in Sydney, despite being the only fastest to not miss a test this summer.
Starc had only 25 falls in the MCG, giving him Australia’s early wins on Days 4 and 5 without bowling in the nets and a week between Tests.
“Your plans are constantly changing because you have no idea how much you’re overdoing it,” Bailey said. “So you have to be a little flexible about that. Today could have been day five. So our express work in particular is not as heavy as in Adelaide and two extra days will work all for them.”
Captain Pat Cummins, who missed the second Test due to Covid concerns, is a man of peace who will surely play. Playing against both regulars Starc and Hazlewood means there will be no place for Scott Boland to debut despite his impressive 6v7 performance on his MCG debut.
Jhye Richardson will also miss after sitting outside the Melbourne Test with slight pain in his legs after winning five wickets in Adelaide.
At best, there could be room for one of them, creating a difficult position for the selector as Richardson Boland topped the Melbourne standings.
“This is a headache. It is a big headache,” Billy said. “Of course there will be difficult conversations at some point.”
Another shift in the manufacturing process could be Mitchell Sweepson, if Australia sees a shift in Sydney and decides to play two roles, with Allrounder Cameron Greene as third tailor.
“We have no doubt that Swepo is ready, either at the SCG or at some point in the future,” Bailey said. “We would like nothing more than to have a chance, but it probably depends on the circumstances.”
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