Ever since the day Josh Hazlewood made his debut in a baggy green cap for Australia, he has been compared to legendary fast bowler Glenn McGrath. And why not? Hazlewood has a lot of resemblance with the former speedster who is 46 now.
Their height, the country origin in New South Wales, their action and the probing line and length are some of the traits that both share. A look at their numbers at the exact same point in their careers reveals McGrath is a shade ahead of the young 25-year-old.
Even though Australia lost the second Test at Hobart against South Africa, Hazlewood shone with the ball on day three by picking up four crucial wickets. He eventually finished with match figures of 6/89 from his 30.5 overs.
His scalps included the prized one of Quinton De Kock, who smashed a century, and Hashim Amla, who scored 47 runs in South Africa’s first and only innings.
McGrath is five wickets ahead of Hazlewood
The sextet of South African wickets helped Hazlewood take his Test tally to 88 wickets in 22 outings, just five behind McGrath who had 93 at the same stage.
In the five major bowling categories, there’s very little to separate these two extremely talented cricketers.
When McGrath finished his career he had a Test bowling average of 21.64 but after the first 22 test matches, his mean was 25.84 which is above Hazlewood’s average of 26.12. McGrath also had a better strike rate of 52.1 compared to Hazlewood’s 57.55. He even had a better economy (3.00) and delivered more maiden overs than the 25-year-old after 22 Test matches.
It is no doubt that filling in the shoes of McGrath is one of the toughest jobs ever, but it looks like Hazlewood is taking small leaps in fitting into that role. He is quite relentless and consistent like his predecessor who enjoyed 14 years playing at the very top level.
One of the key things to notice about Hazlewood is that, just like McGrath he is very patient and persistent with his length and line. You will seldom see him trying variations like other bowlers nowadays.
"You obviously have to try and put it out of your head as best you can,” Hazlewood had said after day three in Hobart as quoted by the CA website. “You obviously can fall into the trap of getting greedy and going after wickets, but that obviously leads to runs usually not wickets.
“It's just about being patient, we talked a lot about it going out there in that first session - just being patient. “I guess you've got to try and pretend you've got 400 on the board but it is tough sometimes. That's how cricket goes and you just have to deal with it as best you can and stay patient,” he added.
Both bowlers have immense stamina and patience
Stamina is another thing the duo have in common, otherwise, could McGrath bag 563 Test wickets from just 124 games-- the most by any Australian fast bowler. Talking about stamina, Hazlewood too showed it in plenty bowling 54 overs at Perth in the first Test and then bowling again here at Hobart.
“The body feels pretty good actually,” Hazlewood said. “It probably helped not doing anything yesterday (which was abandoned due to rain without a ball being bowled).
“I think the hit-out in Perth was not (ideal) but you always come off the back of that and I think you feel like you have more control, a bit more rhythm I guess and things sort of gel together and felt really good today. “Especially towards the end. The pace was up and without using much energy, so that's a good thing,” he added.
Hazlewood says the best time to bowl is with a hard new-ball
All four wickets of Hazlewood on Day three came with the second new ball—with deliveries moving around a bit and the youngster says that is precisely the best time to bowl.
“I think whenever the ball has got a bit of hardness it will nip around a little bit,” he said. “Once the ball is 30 or 40 overs old it becomes a little bit easier for the batting team.”
For the record, Hazlewood also has 39 One-Day International wickets from 26 games and eight wickets from seven T20 Internationals.