Michael Neser vs Scott Boland

With Josh Hazlewood being ruled out of Australia’s squad for the World Test Championship (WTC) 2023 final against India at The Oval, Michael Neser has been named as his replacement.

Hazlewood picked up side soreness during the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2023 and played just three matches for the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB).

The right-arm pacer was named in the initial WTC final squad by the Australian selectors for the Test match, which starts on Wednesday, June 7, at The Oval. However, his fitness was always under a cloud, particularly considering the number of games he has missed to due injuries and niggles over the last couple of seasons.

While skipper Pat Cummins and seasoned left-arm seamer Mitchell Starc are automatic choices in the WTC final playing XI, Australia will need to pick between Neser and Scott Boland for the third seamer’s slot.

On that note, we analyze who could be a better option for the Aussies in the WTC final as Hazelwood’s replacement.

Form check: Neser vs Boland

Michael Neser bowling for Glamorgan. (Pic: Getty Images)
Michael Neser bowling for Glamorgan. (Pic: Getty Images)

Neser is joining the Australian team on the back of a county stint. He played five matches for Glamorgan, claiming 19 wickets at an average of 25.63.

The 33-year-old bowling all-rounder has also made some significant contributions with the bat. He scored 90 against Leicestershire, 86 against Worcestershire, and 123 against Sussex. Neser thus will be high on confidence ahead of the WTC final.

“Michael’s county form has been strong and knowing that he was going to be close by allowed for him to keep playing and for us to be able to call on him. He is a great strength to have as part of the fast-bowling group,” chief selector George Bailey told the media about Neser’s performances.

Shifting focus to Boland, he featured in the Nagpur Test against India during the Border-Gavaskar Trophy earlier this year. He did not have much to do, though, bowling 17 overs for 34 runs without claiming a wicket.

The 34-year-old then turned out for Victoria in the Sheffield Shield. Boland starred with eight wickets in his team’s seven-wicket victory over Western Australia in match number 30 in Perth.

The right-arm pacer managed only three scalps in the final against the same team at the same venue. On this occasion, Western Australia clinched the contest by nine wickets.

Experience vs versatility

Scott Boland in action during the Sheffield Shield final. (Pic: Getty Images)
Scott Boland in action during the Sheffield Shield final. (Pic: Getty Images)

When it comes to Test experience, Boland has the edge over Neser, even if only by a slight margin. The former has represented Australia in seven Tests, having claimed 28 wickets at an average of 13.42, with one fifer and one four-wicket haul.

Speaking of Neser, he has only featured in two Test matches so far, claiming seven wickets at an average of 16.71, with a best of 3/22.

While Boland seems to be the better choice when it comes to a wicket-taking option, the scales could tilt in Neser’s favor if Australia are looking for a third pacer with decent batting ability.

Both Boland and Neser have a pretty similar first-class record when it comes to bowling.

Having made his first-class debut in November 2011, Boland has featured in 95 matches in which he has claimed 339 at an average of 24.30, with 19 four-wicket hauls and eight five-fors. However, has only scored 925 runs at an average of 12.50, with a best of 51.

On the other hand, Neser, who made his first-class debut in December 2010, has featured in 96 matches, claiming 347 scalps at an average of 23.56, with 16 four-fers and 10 five-wicket hauls to his name.

Apart from his bowling exploits, Neser has also made important contributions with the willow in first-class cricket. He has scored 3080 runs at a decent average of 26.78, with three hundreds and 15 fifties along the way.

Michael Neser giving throwdowns for slip-catching practice while Scott Boland prepares to bowl at Marnus Labuschagne. A sign perhaps that #NeserWillNotPlay, at least the #WTCFinal

The choice between Boland and Neser for WTC 2023 final will come down to what Australia are looking for. Boland will provide better wicket-taking ability as the third seamer, while Neser would offer all-round stability.

Considering the conditions in England and the fact that Boland has delivered for Australia in recent times when called up, he is likely to get the nod again.

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