Australia’s tour of the Caribbean might be nearing a close but just who’ll form the nation’s pace attack for the looming Ashes campaign remains unclear.
Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc continued their red-hot form against the West Indies at Sabina Park on Saturday as Australia closed in on a 2-0 series win.
At stumps on day three of the second Test, the Windies were 2-16 in their second innings, still a whopping 376 runs from an unlikely victory target of 392.
Hazlewood began the day by wrapping up the Windies’ tail following a whirlwind 82 by allrounder Jason Holder.
The NSW quick dismissed tail-enders Kemar Roach (7) and Jerome Taylor (0) to complete career-best figures of 5-38.
With the Windies dismissed for 220, a deficit of 179 runs, Australia then piled on the misery before declaring their second innings at 2-212.
In what essentially was a glorified centre-wicket practice session, David Warner (62), Shaun Marsh (69) and Steve Smith (54no) all made half-centuries before captain Michael Clarke unleashed his bowlers for an eight-over burst at the end of the day.
One over was all it took for Starc to dismiss openers Kraigg Brathwaite (0) and Rajendra Chandrika (0).
It means Hazlewood is the leading wicket-taker in the two-Test series with 10 scalps at 8.80.
Starc has nine wickets at 14.11.
The third member of the pace line-up, Mitchell Johnson, has six wickets at 21.50.
With Ryan Harris poised to join the squad in England for the Ashes, just who lines up against the ‘old enemy’ in Cardiff from July 8 remains up in the air.
Hazlewood, who cannot shake comparisons with fellow NSW bowler Glenn McGrath, says the battle for positions hasn’t been a topic of discussion yet.
“We’re just worrying about what we’re doing out in the middle,” Hazlewood said.
“We’re all complementing each other very well out there.
“We’re all different bowlers. I think if we just keep doing that, we can just worry about the selection when it comes down the track.”
One man who is glad to be clear of the issue is Australian selector Mark Waugh.
The former Test batsman is the selector on tour in the Caribbean but will hand that baton over to Rod Marsh for the Ashes campaign.
“All we can ask of a player is if they get an opportunity, they perform and – if they perform – they give the selectors a headache, basically,” Waugh said while commentating for host broadcaster Ten Sports.
“I’m not going to answer who’s going to play in the first Test because it’s going to be up to Rod Marsh and Darren Lehmann and Michael Clarke who are in England. But it gives a big headache for the selectors.
“As a player and a selector, you can only ask for performances when a player gets a chance.
“Then you’ve got to weigh up the opposition, the pitch, with the final composition of the XI.”
AUSSIE QUICKS IN THE CARIBBEAN:
* Josh Hazlewood: 10 wickets at 8.80, best bowling: 5-38
* Mitchell Starc: 9 wickets at 14.11, best bowling: 4-28
* Mitchell Johnson: 6 wickets at 21.50, best bowling: 3-34