AUSTRALIA have been dealt a blow in their bid to retain the Ashes after it emerged that veteran wicketkeeper-batsman Brad Haddin is expected to miss the second Test at Lord’s, which starts tomorrow, due to personal reasons.
The 37-year-old played only a limited part in Australia training yesterday and is set to be replaced by uncapped Test rookie Peter Nevill, who underwent a vigorous workout with head coach Darren Lehmann.
Haddin has long been a thorn in England’s side and topped Australia’s batting averages during the whitewash 2013-14 tour, notching five half-centuries as well as a top score of 118.
But his form with the bat since that series has plummeted. He arrived in England averaging just 15.33 since the last Ashes, with only lower-order batsmen Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon less prolific in the same period.
Haddin failed to summon the fight and resistance of old during Australia’s 169-run mauling at Cardiff, where he scored just 29 across two innings and infamously dropped Joe Root second ball before the Yorkshireman went on to score a match-defining 134.
Nevill, who is yet to receive international recognition in any format of the game, enjoyed a stellar season in Australia’s domestic competition, the Sheffield Shield, last season and averaged 76.40, which included a knock of 235.
The 29-year-old scored 78 in the first innings of Australia’s final warm-up clash against Essex, although question marks remain over his wicketkeeping, having conceded 37 byes in that match.
Better news for Australia came in the form of left-arm paceman Starc, who took seven wickets in the first Test, winning his fitness battle against an ankle injury which flared up in the Welsh capital.
Australia skipper Michael Clarke said: “Although it’s a short turnaround before the second Test, there’s been a lot of positives that have come out in the last couple of days, and things are going really well there.”