Former captain Ricky Ponting expects fast bowler Scott Boland to be named in Australia's playing eleven for the ICC World Test Championship final against India that begins on June 7 at The Oval, if fellow quick Josh Hazlewood is not fit.
Boland has taken 28 wickets in seven Tests for Australia since picking stunning figures of 6/7 against England at the MCG in 2021 and now looms as a key weapon for Australia in the WTC Final against India, with reports suggesting Hazlewood may not be available due to recently returning to bowling after recovering from a minor side niggle which led to him returning early from IPL 2023.
Boland is yet to play a Test in England and went wicketless in playing his only Test match in India in Nagpur earlier this year."Boland's record when he's played over the last 12 months has been absolutely outstanding. He's one that would really, potentially thrive in these English conditions."
"We've seen what he's been able to do in Australia when there has been a bit of assistance off the wicket there and with the ball. So I think he'll get the nod ahead of Neser," said Ponting on the latest episode of The ICC Review show.
Ponting has also backed the addition of all-rounder Michael Neser, who played only two Tests in 2021 to Australia's squad for the WTC Final. Neser has had an impressive stint in the County Championship for Glamorgan, picking 19 wickets and scoring 311 runs in five matches.
"He will be a terrific bowler in English conditions. We have already seen that in County cricket. He's perfectly suited to those conditions. He was probably a little bit unlucky not to be named in this squad right from the start, and certainly even in the Ashes squad, right from the start, just with the conditions."
"Neser has just come off some wickets. He got a very good hundred as well in the second innings of that last County game that they played. He's one of that no-fuss sort of guys that is a very skilful player, and the skill set that he has is actually very well suited to England," he added.
Barring Hazlewood's availability concerns, Ponting believes Australia will stick to the line-up that has served them so well recently and propelled to top the WTC standings, including David Warner opening the batting despite lean returns in the format.
"Now that I know that Hazlewood's probably not there, I think it probably pretty much picks itself. I think Warner will play. I'm listening to everything that's been spoken about the last few months, that Warner will play along with Khawaja, opening the batting."
"Marnus (Labuschagne) three, (Steve) Smith four, (Travis) Head five, (Cameron) Green six, (Alex) Carey seven, (Mitchell) Starc eight, (Pat) Cummins nine, (Nathan) Lyon 10. Scott Boland will be the guy that will come in Hazelwood's place."
"There has only really been one batting question mark in the last 12 months, and that has been the opening spot with David Warner and how long he's going to continue to play. With Travis Head doing what he's done lately in that middle order, and Cameron Green really emerging on the scene in the last 12 months as well, I think the batting side of things pretty much picks itself," he concluded.