Hazlewood urges bats to ease key pair's load

On track for an Ashes return, paceman calls on Australia batsmen to step up this summer

Fast bowler Josh Hazlewood has urged Australia's batsmen to take some of the run-scoring load off key pair Steve Smith and David Warner ahead of the Magellan Ashes series.

Hazlewood flew home from Australia's Qantas Tour of Bangladesh in August after suffering a side strain but has now resumed bowling and says he's on track to play two of NSW's three JLT Sheffield Shield matches before the first Test at the Gabba.

The metronomic right-armer had previously played 22 consecutive Tests, becoming a mainstay in a side where Smith and Warner have often been relied to score the bulk of the runs. 

But Hazlewood has tipped Usman Khawaja, who's expected to slot back into No.3 after losing his spot for the second Test in Bangladesh, for a big summer and believes top-order newcomers Matthew Renshaw and Peter Handscomb can help lighten the load.

Warner tons up, Handscomb run out in Chittagong

"When they put up those stats up of hundreds scored over the last three or four years, it really does show that Smith and Warner score the bulk of those," Hazlewood told Sky Sports Radio.

"I think it's a case of a couple of young guys standing up.

"It's going to be a big series for Usman Khawaja. He's obviously fantastic on home soil, he's very confident of his ability here. 

"I think Handscomb and Renshaw can hopefully stand up and put some big scores on the board. Take that bit of pressure off the skipper and vice-captain."

A quick glance at the Test run-scoring stats over the past four years confirms Hazlewood's observation is spot on.

Between them, Smith and Warner have scored 36 centuries since the beginning of the 2013-14 summer. Australia's other batsmen over the same period, 11 of whom have reached triple-digits, have made 30 tons altogether.

Epic Smith notches third century of series

It's a worrying trend but with Khawaja (whose five hundreds over that period is the equal most after Smith and Warner) forging an impressive home record in recent seasons and Renshaw and Handscomb making impressive debuts last summer, Australia have reason to be optimistic for the Ashes.

Hazlewood points out England too are reliant on two key players in their top-order; captains past and present Alastair Cook and Joe Root.

The 26-year-old suggests the uncertainty over who will fill the other spots in their top-order will place extra pressure on the likes of wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow and besieged allrounder Ben Stokes, who is currently suspended by the ECB and under investigation by police after his alleged involvement in a street brawl.

"They've got a couple of experienced guys at the top with Root and Cook, but there's obviously some gaps there which are well documented," Hazlewood continued.

"The extra pressure falls on Bairstow and Stokes, if he ends up coming, and senior bowlers. 

"There's a few gaps there in the top-order that we can hopefully exploit and put that extra pressure on those experienced guys. 

"Stokes adds some balance to the team but whether he comes out or not is out of our control."


Steve Smith - 19

David Warner - 17

Usman Khawaja - 5

Adam Voges - 5

Michael Clarke - 4

Chris Rogers - 4

Joe Burns - 3

Shaun Marsh - 3

Peter Handscomb - 2

Brad Haddin - 1

Glenn Maxwell - 1

Matthew Renshaw - 1

Shane Watson - 1

2017-18 International Fixtures:

Magellan Ashes Series

First Test Gabba, November 23-27. Buy tickets

Second Test Adelaide Oval, December 2-6 (Day-Night). Buy tickets

Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Buy tickets

Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Buy tickets

Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Buy tickets

ODI Series v England

First ODI MCG, January 14. Buy tickets

Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Buy tickets

Third ODI SCG, January 21. Buy tickets

Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Buy tickets

Fifth ODI Perth TBC, January 28. Join the ACF

Prime Minister's XI

PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Buy tickets

T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series

First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Buy tickets

Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Buy tickets

Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Buy tickets

Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 13

Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16

Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21