Will it be Richardson or Neser to take the ball in Adelaide? (Photos - Cricket Australia)

With Josh Hazlewood ruled out of the second Ashes test, we crunch the numbers to see whether Michael Neser or Jhye Richardson gets the nod.

With Josh Hazlewood already ruled out of the Adelaide Ashes day-night test with a side strain, it’s between Michael Neser and Jhye Richardson as two clear options to replace him.

Australia has a wealth of talented pace bowlers in their arsenal and will rely on their depth to replace the reliable Hazlewood. With James Pattinson retiring from test cricket before this Australian summer, Western Australia’s Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser firm as the two battling for a gig in Adelaide.

The call is yet to be made and is a line-ball decision, such is the quality of both fast bowlers. With the test only a day away, here’s the case for each bowler to be putting the whites on in the second test.

An in-form Richo has form for ruining batting attacks

There aren’t too many bowlers who instantly stroll into domestic and international cricket and dominate from the get-go. Following in the footsteps of the likes of Glenn McGrath and Pat Cummins, Jhye Richardson is one such talent to do so.

Debuting at the age of 19 for his state in the Sheffield Shield, Richardson’s numbers speak for themselves as to how damaging he has been in professional cricket. Ninety first-class wickets off just 21 matches at an average of 21.11, an ODI average of 28.75, and six test wickets in two games at an average of 20.50 proves that Richardson is yet to put a foot wrong at whatever level he plays.

The only reason he missed out on subsequent red ball tours after his successful debut against Sri Lanka in the Test arena was due to a dislocated shoulder suffered just prior to his imminent World Cup selection in 2019, which set back his pace and bowling action for an Australian winter.

But upon returning, and particularly this summer, Richardson has been at his fearsome best.

To put it clearly, Richardson’s numbers should mean he gets Hazlewood’s spot. Already unlucky to miss at the Gabba, Richardson has proof of proving irresistible to teams at the domestic level. In his 90 first-class wickets, he has best match figures of 8/47 and has taken three five-wicket hauls and a ten-wicket match. When he takes wickets, he does so in clumps, and his miserly average proves he is always capable of getting good bats out. For an investment in a player who is clearly going to be a handy test bowler for Australia in the next decade, Richardson is the man for Adelaide.

Jhye RichardsonMichael Neser
FC wickets90236
FC average21.1124.47
Five-wicket hauls3 (+ one 10-wicket match haul)7
Best figures8/476/57

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Is Neser’s time finally now?

Hold your horses when it comes to putting Richardson straight into Australia’s fast bowling cartel in Adelaide because the argument for Michael Neser is just as strong.

Born in South Africa, Neser has always been on the Aussie radar since playing for Queensland’s Under-19 side in 2008. He has really come into his own since the 2013-14 Australian summer, with a breakout season properly occurring when he played a pivotal role in Queensland’s 2017-18 Sheffield Shield victory.

To prove his all-round capabilities, Neser is a bowling all-rounder who can do plenty for Australia with bat and ball in hand. A 2018-19 Shield campaign of 481 runs at 43.72 and 33 wickets at 23.03 underlines everything that Neser can offer his country if picked to play in Adelaide, as his swing and seam is often unplayable.

He’s also been around the Australian setup for a long time now. A perennial twelfth man, Neser was extremely unlucky not to get the nod last summer, when the straining and tiring Australian quicks could’ve done with Neser’s variations in the Gabba finale where India claimed a shock series win. He also comes in with just as much recent form as Richardson, having snared a five-wicket haul against the English Lions just last week in Brisbane.

What makes Neser such a good option for Adelaide is his likeness to Hazlewood. Both are slightly slower than the likes of Starc and Cummins, but do more with the ball in terms of swing and seam.

With a pink ball (potentially under lights), Neser’s swinging deliveries may border on untouchable. While Richardson would be a perfect replacement for Starc or Cummins, Neser’s guile and experience makes the 31-year-old the ideal substitute for Hazlewood.

The verdict

It’s a tough one, there’s no doubt about that.

Richardson’s form should’ve given him a game in Brisbane, and many expected him to be the one on standby if needed in this Ashes series. In any other test (such as at the MCG on Boxing Day) and standing in for any other bowler than Hazlewood, Richardson gets the nod due to his potential and his eye-boggling stats in all formats of the game.

But at the Adelaide Oval, with a pink ball where swing and seam come into play, replacing the slower and more patient Josh Hazlewood, Neser should just pip his WA counterpart as the ideal choice as the third pace bowler in the second Ashes Test. But if Hazlewood’s time out of the side injured extends to Boxing Day, it might be time for Richardson to be reinstated into the side.

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