Heat on Hazlewood ahead of Ashes opener
CRICKET: Australian fast bowler Josh Hazlewood will be cutting it fine as he looks to rediscover form and fitness ahead of the Ashes series.
Hazlewood has been sidelined since suffering a side strain in Bangladesh earlier this year and while his recovery is ahead of schedule, he missed NSW's Sheffield Shield opener last weekend.
Australian team officials expect Hazlewood to make his return for NSW on Saturday and he will then line up again in round three of the competition in a bid to build his match fitness.
The Blues' third Shield game is set to run until November 16 with Australia's five-Test series against England to start a week later.
Fellow Australian fast bowlers Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc are both expected to sit out round three of the Shield but Hazlewood won't have the same luxury, ensuring a somewhat tricky turnaround ahead of the first Test starting on November 23 at the Gabba.
"Until he suffered the side strain, ultimately we wanted him playing the first Shield game like the other boys," Australian team physio David Beakley said.
"He hasn't played that match but he played grade (cricket last weekend), and is expected to play this week.
"If he still gets a couple of Shield games in it's pretty good preparation."
Hazlewood will be looking to make an immediate impact when NSW hosts Western Australia in the four-day clash starting in Sydney on Saturday.
Starc said Hazlewood's return would provide a major boost to both the NSW and Australian attacks.
"He's been awesome the last few years for us," Starc said.
"He allows the faster guys to be so much more aggressive because he's so consistent.
"From all reports he's tracking well.
"Having spoken to him, he's feeling good and ready to go."