Brisbane, Dec 12 (UiTV/IANS) – Australia will be without a key bowler for the first Test against South Africa as selectors revealed a 14-player squad for the opening game of the series against the Proteas.
Veteran pacer Josh Hazlewood is still battling a side strain and has been ruled out of the clash that begins on Saturday at The Gabba, although selectors are hopeful that skipper Pat Cummins will shake off his quad concern and be passed fit.
Hazlewood and Cummins missed Australia’s comprehensive 419-run victory over the West Indies in Adelaide, with fellow pacers Scott Boland and Michael Neser performing well in their absence.
While Hazlewood is still struggling to shake his side injury, Cummins is close to returning according to chief selector George Bailey.
“Pat continues to improve, bowled with freedom on Saturday and appears likely to play this match although Josh will need more time,” Bailey said.
“With that in mind we have retained Michael Neser and Lance Morris in the squad for this match.
“Michael bowled superbly in Adelaide, as did Scott. We were impressed as always with their performances that backed up what they have achieved in the past. Lance is a very exciting prospect who will benefit from time with the squad.
“With so much cricket ahead, we continue to seek opportunities to grow and maintain our fast-bowling experience and depth.”
The three-match series against South Africa looms as a crucial one for both teams as they chase a place at next year’s ICC World Test Championship final at The Oval.
Australia’s emphatic 2-0 series sweep over the West Indies saw them increase their lead at the head of the World Test Championship standings, while South Africa remain in second place.
Australia squad for first Test v South Africa: Pat Cummins (c), Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Lance Morris, Michael Neser, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, David Warner