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Michael Neser, in the form of his life — with bat and ball

Last updated on 04 Jun 2023 | 12:59 PM
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Michael Neser, in the form of his life — with bat and ball

Neser has played five matches for Glamorgan this season and has scalped 19 wickets at an average of 25.6; he's also averaged over 50 with the bat

Josh Hazlewood has officially been ruled out of the World Test Championship (WTC) final against India, meaning Scott Boland is now the front-runner to feature in Australia’s XI as the third seamer at The Oval.

In fact, it was only hours before the official announcement we at did a comprehensive statistical comparison between the pair, advocating for the Aussies to pick Boland. 

A fully-fit, in-form Boland vs a half-fit, out-of-rhythm Hazlewood was always going to be an easy choice. 

What won’t be, or at least shouldn’t be, is a fully-fit, in-form Boland vs a fully-fit, in-form Michael Neser. 

Ooof, now we’re talking.

For those unaware, Michael Neser, who made his Test debut for Australia 18 months ago and has been a consistent performer in the Sheffield Shield for half a decade, is currently playing for Glamorgan in the second division of the County Championship. 

And he’s been killing it. 

Neser has played five matches this season and has scalped 19 wickets at an average of 25.6 — this includes a career-best haul of 7/32 against a Yorkshire side consisting of Adam Lyth, Dawid Malan, Saud Shakeel, and Jonny Bairstow among others. In the very same encounter, Neser also took a hat-trick.

But Glamorgan fans, and English spectators in general, have not been taken by surprise one bit, for this is not something new to them — they’re no strangers to witnessing Neser wreak havoc with the Dukes cherry.

In the 2022 County season, the Queenslander finished as Glamorgan’s second-highest wicket-taker, scalping 37 wickets at an average of 25.16. 

That was his second season with the club. In his maiden campaign for Glamorgan, in 2021, the 33-year-old picked an astonishing 23 wickets in five games at an average of 16.78. 

But even before securing his maiden county stint, Neser had shown his proficiency operating with the Dukes ball in Australian colours, back in 2019. Representing Australia ‘A’ and a select Australia XI in lead-up to Ashes 2019, the right-armer picked 12 wickets at an average of 18.2.

In all, Neser has played 23 first-class matches in England and has picked a staggering 91 wickets at an average of 22.2. 

In the Boland-Hazlewood piece, we saw how the former did not have particularly great numbers while bowling with the Dukes ball in Australia. For reference, for a four-year period between 2016 and 2020, CA used Dukes Balls in the second half of Sheffield Shield seasons (February and onwards).

Contrarily, Neser tormented the batters back home whilst bowling with the Dukes. Across four seasons (second half), the Queenslander managed to scalp 68 wickets at an average of 21.00. He did not average over 24 even in a single season, his year-by-year bowling average reading 23.6 (2017), 22.6 (2018), 16.9 (2019) and 22.3 (2020). 

Neser loves — he’s always loved — bowling with the Dukes ball.

But write him off as a ‘Dukes merchant’ at your own peril. He’s simply bowling the best he ever has. Dot.

In the 2022/23 Shield season back home in Australia, where the wickets are flat and the Dukes is not used anymore, Neser finished as the second-highest wicket-taker, taking 40 wickets in 15 innings at a scarcely believable average of 16.7. 

He’s been at it for a while now. In the last four years, Neser is one of four bowlers to have taken 100 or more Shield wickets. Among the four, however, he is the only one to have taken the wickets at an average less than 20. Absolute champion stuff.

So we already have someone who 

> is already acclimated to the conditions ✅

> is a master bowling with the Dukes ball ✅

> is in the form of his life ✅

> has managed to sustain his success with the ball ✅

And oh, a side note: a fortnight ago against Sussex, he dismissed Che Pujara for a duck. He'd done the same two years ago, knocking Pujara over for a duck representing Australia A.

But what if we tell you we’re not done? The batting. We’ve not even gotten started on Neser’s batting.

Spoiler alert: he’s a darn good lower-order bat.

Neser averages a tad under 27.00 with the bat in his first-class career, but, of late, he’s been going from strength to strength as a batter. 

Since the start of 2022, the 33-year-old averages 33.67 with the bat. This season, he is Glamorgan’s fourth-highest run-getter, having struck 311 runs at an average of 51.83. 

He smashed a century in the last innings he played and he has three 85+ scores to his name in his last five County Championship knocks. 

Indeed, Neser is in the form of his life with the bat too. 

Australia have a clear pecking order, and so by the looks of things, Boland looks all set to play at The Oval ahead of Neser. 

If Australia are eyeing to go the ‘horses for courses’ way, Neser is a far better fit but you can understand why they’re set to go ahead with Boland: he is, after all, a primary reason why they’re in the WTC final in the first place and he’s done nothing wrong himself to get dropped.

Neser, thus, has to wait; it is what it is. But his time will inevitably come — most likely in The Ashes, especially with Hazlewood’s fitness being a huge concern. 

When it does, rest assured he will torment the batters with the Dukes like he always does. 

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