Vodafone Men's Ashes
Richardson or Neser: Aussies weigh up Adelaide selection
With Josh Hazlewood sidelined, Australia are yet to decide how to split the two more-than-capable quicks they have on hand in Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser
Louis Cameron in Adelaide
14 December 2021, 03:39 PM AEST
Australia believe they can't go wrong with whoever they pick out of Jhye Richardson or Michael Neser, but the younger bowler's pink-ball record could give him the edge to resume his Test career this week.
A side strain to Josh Hazlewood has opened the door for either Richardson or the uncapped Neser to play the second Vodafone Ashes Test in Adelaide, where the Aussies have arrived on a high after a comprehensive victory over England at the Gabba.
The strength of Australia's pace attack has seen the highly-rated Neser restricted to 12th man duties for more than two years, with Travis Head suggesting today the skilful Queenslander's relentless seam bowling makes him the more like-for-like replacement for Hazlewood.
But Richardson, who Head labelled the quicker of the two, is in devastating form having collected 23 wickets at 13.43 in four Sheffield Shield matches this summer and was not far off edging out Mitchell Starc for a spot in the series opener, according to Ricky Ponting.
The clincher for the 25-year-old could be his outstanding record with the pink ball, albeit from a small sample size, with no day-night Shield cricket played since the last time England toured in 2017-18, while there was at least one day-night Shield round for five seasons before that.
In his two first-class matches under lights (including his Test debut against Sri Lanka in January 2019), Richardson has snared nine wickets at just 14.
Neser on the other hand has eight wickets at 42 in his two day-night outings, though neither bowler has played a long-form day-nighter recently.
"I think both are highly skilled," Head told reporters today. "We've seen Jhye with the pink ball against Sri Lanka a few years ago with that late swing and high pace.
"Josh (Hazlewood) is obviously a huge asset for us, he bowls so tight and aggressive, great areas. Jhye and 'Ness' do exactly the same thing. They've been sitting there in the wings through a little period of time now waiting for their opportunity.
"Both of them are ready to go, whoever gets the nod. They've both put up (strong) Shield performances, bashed the door down for a while now – it's just we've had three great fast bowlers for a period of time now.
"One of them will get the opportunity and there's no doubt they'll take it."
Should Richardson earn selectors' approval to partner Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc, it would continue Neser's agonising wait for a Baggy Green.
The 31-year-old has starred with the ball (and with the bat, too, at times) at domestic level, earning rave reviews from coaching staff and Test players having been an almost permanent squad member since the 2019 Ashes tour.
The retirement of James Pattinson from Test cricket before the Ashes, combined with the likelihood of the Aussies rotating their bowling attack through a condensed six-and-a-half-week Ashes campaign, has put both him and Richardson in the frame to play key roles in the series.
While Richardson has taken Neser's mantle as the Shield's leading quick this summer, statistically at least, Neser's less flattering returns of three wickets in two Shield matches this summer are somewhat misleading.
The Bulls' first game of the season was a Karen Rolton Oval bat-a-thon against Tasmania that saw just 14 wickets fall in four days.
Due to no fault of his own, Neser then missed two crucial opportunities to advance his case.
The first was a Shield game at Adelaide Oval, which he skipped due to the birth of his first child, while the second was a hamstring injury that saw him limited to just 8.4 overs against Western Australia at the Gabba.
His injury, which saw him also miss Queensland's ensuing Shield match, came as Richardson bowled WA to victory in a player-of-the-match performance.
That performance at the venue for the Ashes opener saw Richardson, whose international career has been stalled shoulder injuries in recent seasons, seriously considered as an alternative to Starc to face England last week.
Neser showed he had regained full fitness with a player-of-the-match performance of his own in his return to cricket last week, taking seven wickets including a first-innings haul of 5-29 for Australia A against England Lions in Brisbane.
It was a further reminder of his prowess with the ball having taken 236 wickets at just 24.47 over a 70-game first-class career.
"Jhye has a bit a more ball speed … we've seen him break games open," said Head.
"And 'Ness' is probably a bit more in the mould of Josh, he (applies) relentless pressure, can get the ball to move around, we've seen that over a long period of time.
"I think the pink ball suits their bowling really well. Whoever gets that spot is ready to go."
Vodafone Men's Ashes
Australia: Pat Cummins (c), Steve Smith (vc), Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, Jhye Richardson, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner
England: Joe Root (c), James Anderson, Jonathan Bairstow, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood
First Test: Australia won by nine wickets
Second Test: December 16-20, Adelaide Oval
Third Test: December 26-30, MCG
Fourth Test: January 5-9, SCG
Fifth Test: January 14-18, Blundstone Arena