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Scott Boland or Josh Hazlewood — who should play in the WTC Final?

Last updated on 04 Jun 2023 | 10:16 AM
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Scott Boland or Josh Hazlewood — who should play in the WTC Final?

We compare both the speedsters using different parameters, and weigh the pros and cons

David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon.

The World Test Championship (WTC) final commences in three days and Australia have got ten spots nailed down for the same. There is still an air of uncertainty over the 11th and final spot, though, and that’s for the slot of the third seamer. 

Over the years, Josh Hazlewood has been a lock for this spot but his fitness issues coupled with Scott Boland’s incredible emergence have complicated things. The word around the Aussie camp is that it’s Boland that looks favorite to start. 

Either way, all things considered, who should be wearing the Baggy Green at The Oval, come Wednesday? We compare both the speedsters using different parameters, and weigh the pros and cons. 

Fitness & Durability

Probably the single biggest factor working against Hazlewood ahead of Wednesday’s final. The 32-year-old has played only 9 Tests since December 2019 and, in this period, has broken down thrice mid-game / mid-series: in Perth against New Zealand in 2019, in The Ashes last year, and then again against West Indies six months ago. 

Four months ago, he missed the entirety of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy due to an Achilles injury and is yet to fully recover from the same. The injury also meant that he only played three games in IPL 2023. In his own words, Hazlewood has started to ‘bowl full tilt’, but can Australia risk a frontline seamer breaking down in the midst of a WTC final?

On the other hand, there are no injury / durability concerns with Boland, who is fit and raring to go. 

Boland gets the nod on this front.

Prior experience in England (and with the Dukes ball)

Hazlewood has been on two previous tours of England (2015 and 2019) and boasts an outstanding record in the UK — 36 wickets at an average of 23.58 and SR of 45.5. He was instrumental in Australia retaining the Ashes four years ago, taking 20 wickets @ 21.85.

The New South Welshman’s impeccable record in enemy territory makes a strong case for him to be in the XI.

Boland, meanwhile, is yet to play a first-class game in England. He had offers from multiple counties this season, but rejected them, claiming, “I did have the opportunity to play county cricket this year, but I prioritised being a bit fresher going into six tests in two months.”

He does, however, have prior experience bowling with the Dukes Ball, thanks to CA implementing the usage of Dukes Ball in the Shield during the second half of the season from 2016-2020. 

The Victorian, though, was not unplayable with the Dukes ball by any means, his (year-by-year) bowling average reading 25.1, 30.1 and 26.4 in the 16/17, 17/18 and 18/19 seasons respectively. He did, however, have a good second half (with the Dukes) in 19/20, taking 13 wickets @ 20.3.

Still, on this front, Hazlewood’s track record and experience blows Boland’s out of the water. 

Prior experience bowling to the Indian batters

Hazlewood has bowled a total of 1827 balls in Tests against the Top six that will be taking the field for India — that is a looooooot of bowling.

However, he has a discernibly sound record only against Rohit Sharma, against whom he has bowled 171 balls and has averaged 27, conceding at a SR of just 31.6. 

One batter who has owned Hazlewood in Tests is Kohli, who averages 55.7 against the lanky right-armer.

Boland, meanwhile, has only bowled a total of 56 balls to the aforementioned Indian batters in Tests.

Experience certainly helps, but, if we are to go by the data above, Hazlewood is not a ‘must-have’, for he’s not really dominated the Indian batting line-up.

If anything, the uncertainty that comes with the Boland + England + Dukes combo might spook the Indian batters a little. That way, Boland might prove to be a mystery weapon of sorts if he plays. 

Recent red-ball form (all first-class matches since the start of 2022)

There is only one winner here

What role would either bowler perform in the side? (if they are picked)

Both Hazlewood and Boland, should they be picked, will be deployed as strike bowlers in different ways (Hazlewood with the new ball, Boland as first-change). But how Australia’s pace attack is structured will depend on the third seamer.

Should the Kangaroos go ahead with Hazlewood, that will mean Cummins bowling himself as first-change, with Starc and Hazlewood taking the new ball.

Should Boland get the nod, then it will be skipper Cummins who will take the new ball alongside Starc. 

What’s interesting here is that Cummins took the new ball in England four years ago (with Starc being dropped) and fared really well, taking 22 wickets @ 21.68.

In fact, outside the subcontinent, Cummins averages 19.80 while taking the new ball. 

What’s also to be noted is that Boland, should the wicket prove to be flat, can perform the role of workhorse, something he’s used to doing game in and game out for his state side Victoria. He can bowl tight and allow the other bowlers to go for broke. 

Not that Hazlewood can’t do that — he’s done it plenty of times in the past — but it’d be risky to have him perform such a physically demanding role given he’s coming back from a long injury layoff. 

Final verdict

Had Hazlewood been 100% fit, he probably would have been the favorite to play in the final but at this point, weighing the pros and cons, Boland seems to be the better choice. 

Especially keeping an eye on what’s to follow — Australia, unlike India, have five more Tests to play in the next 45 days, and the last thing they’ll want is losing a bowler of Hazlewood’s caliber even before the commencement of The Ashes. 

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