How Hazlewood qualified to become Australia’s most cunning T20 pacer

For three and a half years, from March 2016 to December 2019, Josh Hazlewood did not know what it is to bowl in a T20 game. But in those three and a half years, he learned what it’s like to bowl in a T20 game.

From a different standpoint, he has emerged as one of the deadliest in the industry, and he has had more influence in Australia’s World Cup triumph than Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc, the designated whiteball wreckers.

It began with a realization that his red ball methods of success were untranslatable to the white ball realm. The top of the off (stump), challenging the batsman (philosophy) is still important. That time does not last very long before they run after you and slam, all that sort of thing. “

Often, his brain began to distort as the batsmen began to resort to the strange things. The first half of his T20 career, which spanned just seven matches, had plenty of such cases. Three times in those matches he ended up conceding more than 10 runs an over, including 50 runs from fours overs against South Africa. “Something needs to change. You should definitely try to be one step ahead as much as you can be and try to predict what the dough will do each delivery.” he told australia.com.au.

He turned to fellow statesman and friend James Faulkner, the hero completely forgotten from the 2015 World Cup, a white ball virtuoso. “He has lots of variations, and I used to pick his brains all the time, not just to learn about the variations, but how to use them, and of course I practiced a lot in the nets and in my mind. He said to me, ‘You must have not only one, but two or three ‘, “he said.

So he developed not only the routine where he rolled his fingers over the seam more slowly, but also the cuts, the cross stitches and the knuckle ball. Cutters he developed while watching his idols Glenn McGrath, who used the variations abundantly in white-ball cricket towards the end of his career, while the knobball he learned by observing another Australian Andrew Tye. After development came mastery, something that comes naturally. His former club mate Ben Middlebrook had told this newspaper about his meticulous work ethic. “He practiced in the club in the morning, then went home and practiced, and when we are back for the evening session, he would sometimes be there and bowl alone in the nets.”

Although he was encouraged by the new bag of tricks, he knew that his greatest strength was still the oldest strength, hitting hard lengths, the top of the stump or so, and bending the ball both ways with inflexible control. It’s his A game, the rest is just support actions. He is careful not to overuse his variations, and with the new ball he almost always sticks to orthodox ways. Another piece of advice from Faulkner would hum in his ears. “Use the variations at the right time.”

But what is the right moment then?

It is usually judged by the gift of hindsight. For Hazlewood, when the team needs a kiss of life, it’s a momentum-changing moment. Like when Daryll Mitchell and Martin Guptill accelerated ominously. Hazlewood produced a leg cutter – with no change in his arm speed, a feature that makes him difficult to decode – that grabbed the surface and reluctantly brushed Mitchell’s outstretched bat, which was sucked into the shot prematurely. New Zealand was then 28/1 in 3.5 overs. For the next 33 balls, they could hit a single ball to the fence and dawdled to 57/1 in 10 overs on a perfectly fine batting surface.

His battle-defining moment, however, was yet to come. Kane Williamson and Glenn Phillips had, with a mixture of fortune and daring, driven New Zealand to 144/2 at 17.2 overs. Hazlewood hit his knob, quivering and swaying, before slipping Phillips’ bat at the midfielder. Williamson looted him with a rare scoop, but he surprised him with a side-of-the-hand leg cutter as he shot down the field and mishandled for the long-off. New Zealand’s charge was cut and was limited to 172, as they appeared to be set at 180 plus.

It is no coincidence that on his return to T20 cricket he had selected three titles in just one year – Big Bash 2019-20, IPL 2021 and World T20 – and had influenced each of his teams with his rebuilt repertoire. His lost years proved, in a sense, to be his greatest gain in a format he was once considered an outlier.

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