Australia v West Indies: Chance looms for Nathan Coulter-Nile to push for Boxing Day debut

Nathan Coulter-Nile will next week have the opportunity to show selectors why they should change a successful bowling attack so he can debut in the Boxing Day Test.

The 28-year-old is the only fast bowler in Australia’s squad who has been cleared to play in the Big Bash League before the next Test against the West Indies.

The circumstances for Coulter-Nile are not ideal, as it will be with a white ball and he can only bowl four overs, but it will at least be his first opportunity to play at domestic level since mid-October in the Matador Cup. It will also be a chance for the right-armer to show why selectors contentiously brought him into the squad ahead of better-performed peers.

For Coulter-Nile to play at the MCG it would require selectors to tip out Peter Siddle, whose appearance in Hobart allowed him to automatically regain the central contract he lost earlier this year.

Siddle is the only possible casualty, given James Pattinson’s encouraging return to form in the second innings of his comeback Test and Josh Hazlewood continuing the stunning form he has shown since Mitch Starc suffered his season-ending foot injury.

By the time Starc last bowled in Adelaide, before his foot injury became too much for him to bear, Hazlewood’s record for the series was five wickets, one every 18 overs, at an average of 64.6, while conceding 3.6 runs per over.

From that point, however, Hazlewood has thrived after the responsibility to lead Australia’s attack was hastily thrust upon him.

The 24-year-old has since taken an 15 wickets at an extraordinary average of 6.87, striking every 23 deliveries. He has also done this while halving his economy rate, to 1.8 runs per over.

After 13 Tests Hazlewood has 60 wickets at an average of 22.65. In the past 40 years only one Australian paceman has done better from the same period: Stuart Clark, with 62 wickets at 20.21.

Australia coach Darren Lehmann hailed the performance of Hazlewood, whose ambition to play all six Tests has been aided by how quickly he and his teammates dispatched the West Indies batsmen in the first Test.

“Hazlewood was excellent again. His first spell was exceptional. He didn’t bowl a loose ball,” he said.

Lehmann was similar effusive about Pattinson’s second-innings haul of 5-27.

The remaining member of the pace attack, Siddle, was typically miserly, emerging with match figures of 2-70 from 22 overs, with six maidens.

“He played his role. That is what you expect from Peter Siddle these days,” Lehmann said. “If there is a bit more in the wicket he’ll play a bigger role for us. It looked like a green monster three days’ out, but it played pretty true and flat most of the game … it was a pretty good wicket.”

The coach declined to say if the West Indies’ batting struggles – they made 223 and 148, in response to Australia’s 4-583 – would tempt the selectors to drop the steady Siddle in favour of Coulter-Nile, whose pace is comparable to Pattinson’s.

“We’ll just work out the best attack at the time, and [one that suits] the wicket,” Lehmann said. “I know ‘Sidds’ has a really good record at the MCG and knows the wicket and conditions well. We will have to make a call at the time.”

Siddle had played in six consecutive Boxing Day Tests, taking 23 wickets at an average of 24.43, until last year, when Australia instead relied on a pace attack of Ryan Harris, Mitch Johnson and Hazlewood.


Josh Hazlewood’s Test bowling record this summer.

Before Starc injury: 90 overs, 5 wickets at 64.6, strike-rate 108, 3.59 runs per over.

Since Starc injury: 57.4 overs, 15 wickets at 6.87, strike-rate 23.07, 1.79 runs per over.

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