Neser replaces Hazlewood in Australia's WTC final squad

Michael Neser bowls during a training session Getty Images

Josh Hazlewood has lost his race to be fit for Australia's World Test Championship final against India. He has been replaced in the squad by Michael Neser. This makes Scott Boland a favourite to make the XI for the match, which starts on June 7 at The Oval.

Hazlewood, who picked up side soreness at the IPL, remains in Australia's squad for the Ashes, though, with chief selector George Bailey saying he remains in contention for the first of those Tests, in Edgbaston on June 16.

"Josh was very, very close to being given the green light but we are cognisant that our upcoming schedule [the WTC final quickly followed by five Ashes Tests] means this is not a one-off Test match of us.

"This will give Josh an ideal preparation leading into Edgbaston. With six Test matches in a little over seven weeks we will need all of our fast bowling assets."

Neser comes in on the back of a stint with Glamorgan on the county cricket circuit. Given the uncertainty over Hazlewood, Neser, along with Sean Abbott, had been pulled out of county duty to train with the Australian squad in Beckenham. "Michael's county form has been strong and knowing that he was going to be close by allowed for him to keep playing and for us to be able to call on him," Bailey said. "He is a great strength to have as part of the fast-bowling group."

Hazlewood had been withdrawn from the IPL after three games for Royal Challengers Bangalore, and at the time the decision was considered to be a precautionary measure, with scans clearing him of any damage to his side. The precautions were due to his recent run of injury, including two side strains over the past two years and an Achilles issue. This has all meant that he has only played four of Australia's last 19 Test matches and has not played in back-to-back first-class games since early 2021.

He was picked for the WTC final subject to proving his fitness with heavy training loads leading up to the game, and as recently as May 31 he was still very hopeful of making it. Sunday's announcement came after Hazlewood bowled three spells at training on Saturday.

As for the other specialist quicks in Australia's WTC squad, captain Pat Cummins is back after missing Australia's previous two Tests, in India, due to family reasons, and Mitchell Starc is fully fit having missed the first two games of that India series with a finger injury.