HAZLEWOOD’S LEARNING CURVE

Josh Hazlewood is suddenly the key man in Australia’s Test bowling attack. Mitchell Johnson’s retirement and Mitchell Starc’s latest injury have put more pressure on the 24-year-old, but his performance at Adelaide has also been instrumental in his promotion.

There was talk of resting Hazlewood for the Adelaide Test, a move which would not necessarily have reflected his prominence in the fast bowling pecking order.

With James Pattinson and others desperate for a chance to impress, being out of the side is not a good place to be for a bowler who had taken four wickets in the first two Tests of the series. A rest can easily become a longer spell on the sidelines.

However, a nine-wicket haul in the maiden Day/Night Test has assured Hazlewood’s status as Australia’s leading seamer and key bowler for the forthcoming West Indies series. His Test best second innings figures of 6/70 showed just how much the New South Welshman has developed since the Ashes and throughout this series.

He hit an excellent length at Adelaide, something he had not done as consistently in the first and second Tests. His good length percentages at Brisbane and Perth were 61.7% and 57.9% respectively. It was 69.2% in the third Test.

Overall seam bowling improvement was a feature of the Day/Night Test. A grassier wicket, a swinging pink ball and the lure of floodlight assistance encouraged better performances from all the pacemen. Real or imagined, the bowler-friendly Day/Night conditions saw all seamers raise their game.

BowlerGood length % - Adelaide 1st inns
Hazlewood59.6
Starc61.1
Boult70.6
Southee73.5
BowlerGood length % - Adelaide 2nd inns
Hazlewood75.8
Starc-
Boult81.4
Southee70.8

An analysis of the three other regular opening bowlers shows they all recorded their highest good length percentages of the series at Adelaide, with Trent Boult (75.9%) leading the way. Tim Southee’s was 72.2% and Mitchell Starc’s 61.1%.

This left Hazlewood, Boult and Southee with similar overall good length percentages across the series, with the Australian producing a consistent pattern: his good length percentage was higher in the second innings than the first in all three Tests.

BowlerGood length % - series
Hazlewood63.1
Starc43.5
Boult64.4
Southee63.5

Some might say Hazlewood should learn faster than taking an innings in each match to find the appropriate length, although different conditions do call for varying approaches. Nonetheless, he has made great strides since the Ashes, when he mixed occasional unplayable deliveries with too many half volleys, seemingly striving too much for the perfect delivery with the Dukes ball.

As the occupier of the perhaps over-rated role of leader of the attack, Hazlewood justified his captain’s faith in him. Steven Smith pressed for his state colleague’s inclusion at Adelaide, knowing Hazlewood is now capable of attacking and containing as is required. A useful combination, and one which makes him the bowler to watch in the West Indies series.

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