Scott Boland once again made his presence felt in red-ball cricket as Australia defeated South Africa in the space of two days at the Gabba to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match Test series. The 33-year-old claimed four wickets in the match and is now averaging 10.36 with the ball in Test cricket.
However, injured senior paceman Josh Hazlewood is nearing full fitness and will likely be available for the second Test, starting December 26 in Melbourne. Hence, it could be difficult for Boland to retain his spot as Australia could go with the trio of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Hazlewood.
It’s not going to be an easy call for the team management as only Australia’s Charles Turner (8.55) and England's George Lohmann (10.22) have reached 25 Test wickets at a lower average. Australia's selection chair George Bailey feels there’s not too much difference between seamers Boland and Hazlewood when it comes to quality, but said it’s a good headache to have.
"He was on the radar for the MCG last year because of exactly what we’ve seen him do – he bashes a length, and his ability to take multiple wickets in the same over speaks to how consistent he is and the questions he asks of the batter right from ball one," Bailey said on Monday (December 19).
"He’s going fantastically (but) Josh is recovering really well. He had another really good hit out (on Sunday) and is close to 90 percent I reckon. He’ll keep building and clearly we’ve got a decision to make, but it’s a good problem to have."
If they make it through to the World Test Championship final, Australia will end up playing 12 Tests (two at home, four in India, the WTC final and the Ashes) in the next eight months and Bailey said it’s going to be essential to have a good depth in the fast-bowling department.
"So much has been spoken about with the cricket that is coming up, and we are going to need more than three bowlers. We’re going to need a squad mentality that is really adaptable, and a squad that is adaptable in different conditions.
"We saw Michael Neser step in last week and perform (and) the other one I’ll throw up into that mix – and great to see him back (in the BBL over the weekend) – is Jhye Richardson. So there’s some great depth in the fast bowling at the moment, which is exciting."
Bailey also spoke about David Warner who is set to play his 100th Test. The left-handed opener has an outstanding record at home but hasn’t been in great form of late. It’s almost been three years since Warner slammed a Test century and only has two 50-plus scores in his last 21 innings.
"I still think David is preparing as well as he can and he’s looking fantastic in the nets. I personally think there’s runs around the corner for him. He's moving well, he's catching well,” said Bailey.
"When people start to 'go' (towards the end of their careers), for want of a better way to put it, the catching goes, the movement goes but he’s still an outstanding fielder, and still fit as a fiddle.
"No doubt David would be the first to say he’d like a few more runs and to be contributing a bit more knowing the importance of that role at the top of the order. But (we have) full confidence that will come."
Warner is now 36 and is at the twilight of his playing days, and Bailey believes it’s going to be almost impossible to replace someone like him once he retires. "The way Davey plays, I don’t think that’s going to be replaced," Bailey said.
"The way he’s taken the game on, moved the game forward, and the record he has, that’s a challenge that every team faces when you remove someone who in many respects has changed the way the game is played a little bit.
"I don’t think we’ll be looking to replace David Warner, but I think we’ve got some strong candidates waiting in the wings to bat at the top of the order for Australia."