Australia has handed Victorian paceman Scott Boland a Christmas present for the ages after it was confirmed that he will make his shock debut for Australia in the third Ashes Test at his home ground the MCG.
The 32-year-old Gulidjan man will on Sunday become the second male behind Jason Gillespie and fourth Indigenous Test cricketer for Australia behind Faith Thomas, Gillespie, and Ashleigh Gardner, 15 years after Gillespie last charged in for Australia in Test cricket when he gets handed baggy green number 463 on Sunday.
With Josh Hazlewood still not quite available in his recovery from a side strain, Boland is one of two inclusions to the Australian side, joining skipper Pat Cummins in the final Australian XI. Cummins missed the Adelaide Test after being caught at a restaurant the night before the game and being a close contact to a covid positive person and under South Australia’s rules at the time, was forced into isolation.Embed from Getty Images
Speaking to the media on Christmas Day, Cummins spoke of his excitement of Boland’s inclusion as another chance to represent Australia’s great history in the national team.
“It’s huge – ‘Dizzy’ (Gillespie) was the first,” captain Pat Cummins said.
“Australia’s got a rich history of 50,000-60,000 years and it’s great that that’s starting to get reflected in our team.”
Boland was included in Australia’s extended squad prior to the Ashes and played the game for Australia A against the England Lions before getting formally added to the Test squad ahead of Boxing Day as cover for other fast bowlers in the squad.
The pacey pair replace fellow quicks Jhye Richardson and Adelaide debutant Michael Neser, both nursing niggles and injuries from the last Test.
Richardson proved to be a handful on his return to the Test arena, taking a five-wicket haul in the second innings to help bowl Australia to victory in Adelaide. But the selectors have opted to take a cautious approach with the Western Australian quick, putting him on ice and not taking any injury risks.
“He was pretty sore,” Cummins told reporters on Saturday. “We were umming and ahhing – he had a bowl yesterday but we thought seven days off (before the fourth Test in Sydney) will give him enough rest.
“He’s got a small leg injury which is nothing major but we thought rather than risking a long-term injury, we’d give him a week off.”
Boland has international experience previously, having represented Australia in 14 One Day Internationals and 3 T20 internationals in 2016.
Boland has developed a reputation as being an “MCG specialist” which partly played into the conversation around his selection, Cummins said.
Boland has taken 91 wickets at 25.71 in 26 first-class games at the ‘G, even more impressive considering how flat and non-bowler-friendly the MCG wicket had been up until recently.
It was only seven weeks ago where Boland bowled Victoria to victory on Day 4 at the MCG in a Sheffield Shield match against New South Wales, taking 5/56 in the second innings to secure victory and continue his tremendous form to start the shield season.
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Ever since Matt Page took over as the head curator at the MCG to improve the quality of the pitch following the Poor rating given to it by the ICC after the Ashes Test match at the venue in 2017, Boland has been close to unplayable at the venue. In six MCG matches, he has scooped 42 wickets at 14.35, striking every 35 balls for his state
“We earmarked him as a chance for here and the SCG in particular, we think his record is really well suited,” Cummins said
“His record speaks for itself here in domestic cricket. Home ground, having someone fresh like him who can perform straightaway were the big factors.
“He’s really excited obviously – it’s a dream for him to wear the Baggy Green, packed MCG on Boxing Day, it doesn’t get any better.”Embed from Getty Images
The right armer will see Australia hand out a third baggy green in as many test matches and the second test in a row where a fresh cap has been given to a fast bowler, aiding Australia’s aim to rest and rotate their bowlers through a heavy workload of a tight summer.
It marks a departure of the over-reliance on the big three quicks and spinner Nathan Lyon, which worked so well for them in the previous Ashes series and away from the pick and stick method which came back to bite them last summer against India.
“We knew, even with James Pattinson retiring (before the Test summer started), that we had six or seven guys who could step in and do a really good job,” said Cummins.
“Although ‘Ness’ (Neser) debuted last game, Jhye was in after a few years, Scotty’s debuting this game, we felt really confident with how much domestic cricket they’ve played and how they’ve performed that they could come in here and be Test-ready straightaway.
“There was a bit of that worry (over inexperience) going into Adelaide but we saw how well Jhye and Ness bowled and gelled, and how well Starcy led the attack, so I think any of those worries are past us.”
It is the first time since 2010/11 that England have arrived at the MCG with the urn still up for grabs and the series still alive and it is the first time since 1998/99 that the tourists have a chance to bounce back with Darren Gough and Alec Stewart leading the charge for England then.
Joe Root will need to find more allies than just Dawid Malan with the bat to make it happen though.
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