Australia’s once rich fast bowling stocks are running alarmingly low after Nathan Coulter-Nile’s latest injury setback left unheralded quick Scott Boland within reach of a Test debut on Boxing Day.
There has rarely been a better time to be a fast bowler in Australia such are the opportunities on offer in the coming weeks, provided he can stay fit.
That is easier said than done, judging by the number of quicks who have fallen by the wayside this season. Coulter-Nile is the latest to bite the dust after dislocating his shoulder while fielding in the Big Bash.
The injury to his bowling side does not bode well for a swift recovery, which means his chances of taking part in the one-day series against India and tour of New Zealand are in peril.
He joins Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins on the sidelines, not to mention Mitchell Johnson, who retired last month.
Josh Hazlewood is the lone quick remaining from the first Test of the summer. His growing importance to the Test side means he is likely to be rested for some of the one-day series against India, which would leave Australia with a one-day attack unrecognisable to the one that lifted the World Cup last March.
Boland is in line to capitalise on Australia’s depleted pace supply after being drafted into Australia’s squad for the second Test.
“For me, touch wood, I haven’t been too injury prone the last few years and have been able to get through three or four [Sheffield] Shield seasons in a row, so I think I’m in a good place to keep bowling,” Boland said.
“I feel like I’m bowling really well and feeling really strong. It’s a good opportunity to be a quick bowler in Australia at the moment.”
The 26-year-old is not well known outside of keen watchers of shield cricket but has earned a reputation on the state scene as being one of the more difficult bowlers to face.
Boland, who was placed on standby for the Hobart Test, received confirmation of his promotion on Tuesday morning, though a missed call from Rod Marsh the previous night gave him an idea of what was to come.
Boland’s last Boxing Day Test experience was as a fan in the outer in 2006 when Matthew Hayden and Andrew Symonds hammered England. He will at least be in the dressing room this time, perhaps even out on the field if he can edge ahead of either James Pattinson or Peter Siddle and become the 444th recipient of a baggy green cap.
Australia’s other selection issue is who of Joe Burns or Shaun Marsh will make way for Usman Khawaja. Burns began the season in a blaze of glory in Brisbane but is expected to pay the price for a string of moderate scores since.
“It’s been frustrating,” Burns said. “Because as a opening batter the hardest thing to do is probably getting a start. To go on and waste it, to make some 30s and 40s – it doesn’t really count for much.
“The satisfying thing is I am getting a start … but the frustrating part is that with those starts you should be making 50s at least and 100s ideally.”
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