Key player to miss out in big blow for Australia ahead of WTC final
Australia have suffered a major blow ahead of their much-anticipated clash with longstanding rivals India for the final of the World Test Championship (WTC) at The Oval.
Two days prior to their mega finale versus the arch-rivals, the numero uno WTC qualifiers have seen one of their premier speedsters Josh Hazlewood sidelined with a persistent injury.
Hazlewood's continuous and painstaking battle with an Achilles and side injury has derailed the pacer's comeback trail and once again tamed the incisive right-arm quick, whose presence would've posed a huge threat to the Indians and bolstered Australia's claim for the prestigious WTC 2021-23 title.
The injury-forced absence from the WTC final means the skillful bowler hasn't played any of Australia's most recent five Tests, including the entire Border-Gavaskar Trophy in February-March on Indian shores. Ever since aggravating his injury during the New Year's Test against South Africa at the SCG, the pacer hasn't been able to feature in any international game.
Hazlewood ruled out of WTC final; Neser called up
The same Achilles injury had also dented Josh Hazlewood during the IPL 2023 where he was supposed to lead the pace pack for Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). Instead, the veteran quick spent the last two months under an extensive rehabilitation programme under the supervision of RCB coaches and medical staff.
Upon completion of this rehab, Hazlewood had been approved by Australian physios and selectors for the WTC final and the Ashes. However, an untimely recurrence of the injury has once again ruled him out of playing action and has left him doubtful for the start of the forthcoming Ashes, which kicks-off five days after the WTC final from June 16 at Edgbaston.
His absence, though, has proven a blessing for backup seamer Michael Neser, who is now part of Australia's 15-member squad picked for the WTC clash versus India.
Neser would compete with Scott Boland as the potential third specialist seamer to be part of a strong bowling unit led by skipper Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc alongside allrounder Cameron Green with Nathan Lyon retaining his spot as the lead spinner.
The 33-year-old medium pacer brings with wealth of playing experience in English conditions through his multiple County Championship stints and has played 2 Tests for Australia with 7 wickets at 16.71 apiece.