Australia Unchanged for Second New Zealand Test, Boland Likely to Return Home

Australia Unchanged for Second New Zealand Test, Boland Likely to Return Home

Australia’s Test team will remain unchanged for the fourth consecutive match, with the bowling quartet also set to stay intact for the seventh time this summer. Back-up quick Scott Boland is likely to be released to play Sheffield Shield cricket for Victoria on Monday.

Captain Pat Cummins confirmed the expected lineup for the second Test against New Zealand at Hagley Oval, starting Friday. Australia aims to secure a 2-0 series victory after their triumph in Wellington.

The final round of Shield matches begins Monday, and Victoria has a chance to qualify for a third straight final by hosting Western Australia at the Junction Oval in Melbourne. Boland and Michael Neser are the two reserve quicks on tour, while Matt Renshaw is the only spare batter in the 14-man squad.

Australia must retain at least one spare batter and one spare bowler in case of a concussion but could release one of the quicks to play in the Shield. Queensland is out of contention for the final and would not require Neser’s return.

Boland is expected to be released after Friday’s toss to prepare for Victoria’s match against Western Australia. “There was talk of maybe sending Scotty back for Victoria but holding Nes back from Queensland just to annoy Marnus [Labuschagne] and Usman [Khawaja],” Cummins said.

Boland has had a frustrating summer. He starred in Australia’s World Test Championship final victory last June and kept Mitchell Starc out of the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston. However, England targeted him in the two Tests he played in the Ashes, and Australia reverted to their “big three” for the final two Tests.

Boland was rested for specific Shield matches at the start of the summer at the request of Australia’s selectors to be fresh for the Tests. However, the trio of Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, and Mitchell Starc have remained fit, and Boland has played only five first-class matches this season.

“I think I said at the start of the summer I’d be surprised we played all seven just because it’s rare that something doesn’t pop up,” Cummins said. “But thankfully we’ve all kind of managed all the little niggles that pop up pretty well.”

While Australia is settled, there is caution heading into the second Test. In 2022 against Sri Lanka and last month against the West Indies, Australia squandered 1-0 leads with poor performances in the second match of each series.

Concerns surround the batting group, with frank discussions held internally during the week about being more ruthless and accountable to individual plans. “I think it’s just decision-making around plans, and having really clear plans,” Cummins said. “It doesn’t mean you need to have 12 shot options. It might only be two or three.”