Australia A Tour of England - Men's
I'm ready to play: Hazlewood signals Ashes intent
Still stung by his World Cup omission, Josh Hazlewood is primed for the Ashes via the Australia A tour
11 June 2019, 05:02 PM AEST
A fully-fit Josh Hazlewood is trying to avoid even watching the World Cup as he prepares himself for Australia's defence of the Ashes from August 1.
Hazlewood is at the Bupa National Cricket Centre in Brisbane as part of a week-long training camp with the Australia A squads, which are set to fly out to the UK on Friday for a seven-week tour.
The 27-year-old was a noteworthy omission from Australia's World Cup squad when it was deemed he didn't have the required match fitness to be selected after suffering a back injury in January.
And as Aaron Finch's side works its way through the early part of the tournament, Hazlewood has revealed he is dealing with his absence by directing his energies elsewhere.
"I'm trying to focus on what I'm doing up here," he told cricket.com.au. "I'll sit down at night and watch a couple of overs but I'm trying to steer clear of it a little bit.
"The more you watch something, the more you probably miss it. So I'm just trying to pretend it's not on, to a degree."
Hazlewood's omission was compounded for Australia when young quick Jhye Richardson was also withdrawn for the tournament, with Redback Kane Richardson earning a late call-up.
Rather unusually, the New South Welshman has played the same number of Tests as ODIs (44 each), which is perhaps an indication of how valuable selectors consider him to be as a Test bowler.
There is no escaping his quality in the 50-over format, however; in the 77 ODIs Australia played between World Cups, Hazlewood (31 matches) was their most economical bowler with a runs-per-over figure of 4.85 (Pat Cummins second with 4.96 in 36 matches), while his strike-rate of 31.8 was only marginally behind Cummins (30.6) and Mitchell Starc (29.3 in 34 matches).
"It's a tournament that only comes around every four years, and just purely the timing of the injury – that's probably the most frustrating thing," he added. "To be fit now while it's on, it's hard to take that as well I guess."
Fitness however, is something Hazlewood was short of four years ago in the UK, and an area in which he knows he will be better placed this time around; in 2015, he went into the Ashes just five Tests into his career, and the unrelenting international schedule was then a foreign concept to him.
"You learn along the way," he explained. "I'd played maybe 30 first-class games. It was my first big summer, and we bowled a lot during the (2014-15) Indian series, which went into the World Cup and then two Tests in the West Indies.
"My body was fried. The first two, two-and-a-half (Ashes) Tests were really good – I took five wickets in each of the first two Tests, then three or four in the next one, and everything was going great.
"And then I think it wasn't really my skill that let me down, it was my body; I really struggled through the back half of that third Test and then into the fourth.
"I'd just been used to bowling through summer, having a good break and then getting up again for the next summer, and I'd been doing that for three or four years.
"Then the first time you actually bowl through winter, everything just catches up with you – all the niggles from summer – and it's like a snowball effect. The first time you do it is the hardest.
"I was reasonably happy with things though; I know I can do a great job when I'm physically pretty fresh and that's how I'm going to enter this Ashes, so I'm looking forward to it."
Hazlewood was far from disgraced in that series; the right-armer took 16 wickets at 25 and struck every 42 balls. But the expectations of an Alderman-esque performance had been placed on the shoulders of the 24-year-old which, given his rawness at international level, were perhaps overly lofty.
This time around, he feels a better-balanced attack – together with his increased experience – will aid his cause.
"I bowled with the two Mitches (Starc and Johnson) for probably my first dozen Tests," he said. "They're two very attacking bowlers and they're probably the same bowler in that regard.
"They're big wicket-takers and they can win you a game as we've seen throughout the years, and I guess when it's not going right they go for runs, and then it's my job to always contain.
"It does apply a lot of pressure, I feel, at some stages, and I think in some situations in England it might be better to have two bowlers more like myself and then one attacking, whereas in Australia you might need the opposite.
"As fast as Cummins bowls, he's economically pretty good. Having that speed and still bowling pretty tight is quite a rare trait to have – that's why he's so good."
Hazlewood is part of both Australia A squads and looks set to return to playing action via the one-day format from June 20, before the three red-ball fixtures commence from July 7. Those matches will culminate in an 'Australia v Australia A' four-day fixture in Hampshire, which will serve as a final selection trial for the Ashes squad. It shapes as a high-quality preparation for Hazlewood, who has not played competitively since the New Year's Test.
"I've done as much as I can in the nets," he said. "It takes that time out in the middle now to get that extra couple of per cent up to one hundred.
"I've been off the long run for a month now, and I'm as ready to play as I can be."
Australia A tour of the UK
Australia A one-day squad: Travis Head (c), Matthew Wade, Will Pucovski, Peter Handscomb, Ashton Turner, Mitch Marsh (vc), D'Arcy Short, Kurtis Patterson, Ashton Agar, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Josh Hazlewood (vc), Sean Abbott
Australia A four-day squad: Tim Paine (c), Marcus Harris, Kurtis Patterson, Will Pucovski, Travis Head (vc), Peter Handscomb, Matthew Wade, Mitch Marsh, Michael Neser, Jon Holland, James Pattinson, Jackson Bird, Josh Hazlewood (vc), Chris Tremain
June 20: Australia A v Northamptonshire, The County Ground, Northamptonshire
June 23: Australia A v Derbyshire, County Ground, Derby
June 25: Australia A v Worcestershire, New Road, Worcester
June 30: Australia A v Gloucestershire, Bristol Country Ground, Bristol
July 2: Australia A v Gloucestershire, Bristol Country Ground, Bristol
July 7-10: Australia A v Sussex, Arundel Castle Cricket Ground, Arundel
July 13-16: Australia A v England Lions, The Spitfire Ground, Canterbury
July 23-26: Australia v Australia A, Ageas Bowl, Hampshire