Setback for Australia as Josh Hazlewood ruled out of WTC final against India

Fast bowler yet to recover from side and Achilles issues ahead of title match at The Oval

Australia's Josh Hazlewood, right, has been ruled out of the World Test Championship final against India. EPA
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Australia suffered a significant setback on Sunday after it was announced that fast bowler Josh Hazlewood had been ruled out of the World Test Championship final against India.

Hazlewood was expected to lead a strong Australian pace attack that also includes captain Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc in the title match at The Oval in London that starts on Wednesday.

However, his fitness was a concern as the right-arm quick had left the Indian Premier League early after complaining of "minor side soreness".

Cricket Australia announced that Hazlewood is still managing a left Achilles issue as well as the side injury, and so won't play against India.

The 32-year-old was replaced by Michael Neser in their 15-man squad. However, in-form pacer Scott Boland is likely to be Australia's third fast bowler alongside Cummins and Starc.

"Josh was very, very close to being given the green light but we are cognisant that our upcoming schedule means this is not a one-off Test match for us," chief of selectors George Bailey said.

"This will give Josh an ideal preparation leading into Edgbaston," Bailey said referring to the five-match Ashes series against England that begins on June 16.

"With six Test matches in a little over seven weeks we will need all of our fast bowling assets."

Coach Andrew McDonald said the short turnaround between the WTC final and the Ashes series forced the team to make the decision.

"We've got the WTC final to play, which we are excited about, but on the back of that we have to quickly turn our attention to England and the Ashes," McDonald said.

"So there'll always be considerations around management ... I'd say there'd be some moving parts amongst the quicks."

Hazlewood has played just four Tests in the past three years due to a series of injuries.

Speaking on Saturday about the close proximity of the India decider and the first Ashes Test, Hazlewood said: "It's probably one or the other for me at this stage.

"Just being over here for the last week and bowling in England, it does feel a lot easier on the body compared to Australia or India where it can be hot, the wickets are really hard and you've got to bend your back to get something out of them.

"In England it feels like you can just take that couple of per cent off, bowl a bit within yourself and the wicket does enough for you."

India too will be without a front-line pacer. Jasprit Bumrah has been sidelined for a considerable period due to a persistent back problem, which has weakened the pace attack. Mohammad Shami and Mohammad Siraj are expected to lead the bowling.

On the batting front, Rohit Sharma will be without the services of wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant, who is still sidelined following a serious road accident, and KL Rahul, who is recovering from injury.

Updated: June 04, 2023, 12:59 PM