Time running out for Hazlewood
JOSH Hazlewood's bid to prove his fitness for the World Cup is getting precariously tight as the game of musical chairs continues in Australia's fast bowling ranks.
Victorian Test hopeful Chris Tremain appeared to dramatically drop out of the Ashes race on Tuesday when he was surprisingly dumped out of the Sheffield Shield clash against NSW at Drummoyne Oval.
The selection of veteran Peter Siddle and firebrand James Pattinson at Tremain's expense for the top-of-the-table clash raised eyebrows given one of domestic cricket's most consistent performers had appeared to be firmly on the radar for England Test selection.
Victorian spinner Jon Holland gave a timely reminder for his credentials as Nathan Lyon's deputy on the Ashes tour, as he decimated NSW's top order on an intriguing opening day's play.
NSW quick Harry Conway blazed through Victoria with an extraordinary spell of 5-14 to bowl the competition leaders out for just 106 after losing the toss, but Holland then performed a rout of his own as he took a five-wicket haul in the final session to inflict a stunning collapse and reduce the Blues to 7-97 in reply at stumps on day one.
The winner of the match will sit at the top of the ladder heading into the final round next week, but Victoria insisted Tremain was only being rested, much like Siddle had been the previous round following a long Big Bash campaign.
Pattinson faces a long road back to Test cricket but the sign of him trundling through eight overs was a positive sign. Siddle took two wickets in an impressive performance defending such a small total.
Mystery also surrounds the fitness of Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc when it comes to the fast-approaching World Cup.
Starc suffered a setback in his return from a pec injury and it's unknown when he will return to bowling or what kind of cricket if any he can get under his belt before the World Cup.
But it's understood Hazlewood is the even bigger concern and he is racing the clock to prove his fitness after suffering hot spots in his back.
Hazlewood was part of Australia's World Cup triumph in 2015, but the emergence of Pat Cummins and Jhye Richardson in India, and the solid form shown by the likes of Nathan Coulter-Nile may give selectors reason to take a safer approach with their vice-captain.
Hazlewood is one of the best fast bowlers in the world in any format and in any conditions, but it's in the Ashes where he will be seen as most vital to Australia's hopes.