Ashes 2021-22: Langer backs Starc to be fit for Boxing Day Test, unsure on Hazlewood

By Sports Desk December 23, 2021

Australia head coach Justin Langer backed Mitchell Starc to be fit for the Boxing Day Test, though it remains unclear whether Josh Hazlewood will feature.

Langer's side boast a 2-0 series lead after a nine-wicket demolition of Joe Root's tourists in the opening Test in Brisbane, in which Starc bowled opener Rory Burns with the first delivery of the Ashes, and a 275-run victory in Adelaide.

Starc managed match figures of 6-80 at the Adelaide Oval as Australia made it nine wins in day-night Test matches, the only side with a perfect 100 per cent winning record, in the absence of Pat Cummins and Hazlewood, who injured himself at the Gabba.

Cummins is expected to return in Melbourne after coming into close contact with a positive COVID-19 case last Wednesday, but Langer remained unsure on Hazlewood's fitness as he praised the work of left-armer Starc.

On Starc, Langer told reporters: "He should be fine. He's tough. If he's not right, then we'll look at it. But at this stage, there's no indication suggesting he won't be playing the next Test.

"I'd be very surprised if he doesn't get up for Boxing Day. We will wait and see how Hazlewood pulls up.

"I honestly thought Starc was almost the man of the match last game. He became the leader of the group.

"There's been a lot of talk about Mitch Starc for the last few years but he just keeps turning up. He's an unbelievable athlete and he's incredibly fit.

"His resilience to just keep coming up over and over and over again is remarkable really, and his consistency of length and the way he controlled the tempo of the game last game was a great credit to him, particularly with Patty (Cummins) and Hazlewood not playing."

Indeed, Starc has been the pick of fast bowlers in the series thus far, picking up nine wickets at an average of 21.33, with off-spinner Nathan Lyon the only other player to record as many dismissals (nine wickets at an average of 25). 

The hosts initially named an unchanged 15-man squad for the remainder of the Tests in Melbourne, Sydney and Hobart but have added bowler Scott Boland to the group while the medical team continue to assess the fast-bowling group.

Langer has also confirmed Marcus Harris will open in the third Test, despite the left-handed batter managing just 38 runs across four innings, knowing Australia will retain the Ashes if they avoid defeat at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

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