Victorian right-arm pace bowler Scott Boland is set to make his home Test debut after he was selected in the Playing XI for the Ashes game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground beginning on Boxing Day.
The 32-year-old Boland will become the first Indigenous male player to wear the Baggy Green cap since pace bowler Jason Gillespie. With captain Pat Cummins also returning to the side after missing the second Test in Adelaide due to COVID-enforced quarantine, pacers Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser will sit out.
Cummins said on Friday that Boland will become just the fourth Indigenous person to wear the Baggy Green. Pace bowler Josh Hazlewood is unavailable due to a side strain that sidelined him for the Adelaide Test as well, while Richardson is reportedly sore after bowling 38 overs in the second Test, where he grabbed his maiden Test five-wicket haul on the last day to help the hosts to a 275-run win.
Boland, of the Gulidjan tribe in the Colac area of Victoria, joins Faith Thomas, Jason Gillespie and Ashleigh Gardner as players of Indigenous descent to feature at Test level.
"Player-of-the-match in the only Marsh Sheffield Shield game held at the MCG so far this season, Boland would be awarded the Jonny Mullagh Medal (named for the star Aboriginal allrounder from Australia's historic 1868 tour of England) if he was to earn that honour again in his maiden Test," according to cricket.com.au on Friday.
Boland's record at the MCG perhaps helped the Cricket Australia selection panel make up its mind quickly. The 32-year-old has 91 wickets at 25.71 in 26 first-class games at the MCG, which is impressive given that the surface is mostly unresponsive.
Giving the reason for Richardson's exclusion, Cummins said, "He was pretty sore. We were umming and ahhing -- he had a bowl yesterday but we thought seven days off (before the fourth Test in Sydney) will give him enough rest. He's got a small leg injury which is nothing major but we thought rather than risking a long-term injury, we'd give him a week off." On Boland's inclusion, Cummins said, his success at the MCG played a "huge part" in his selection.
"We earmarked him as a chance for here and the SCG in particular, we think his record is really well suited," said Cummins. "His (Boland's)record speaks for itself here in domestic cricket. Home ground, having someone fresh like him who can perform straightaway were the big factors. He's really excited obviously - it's a dream for him to wear the Baggy Green, packed MCG on Boxing Day, it doesn't get any better," said Cummins.
Australia XI: David Warner, Marcus Harris, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey (wk), Pat Cummins (c), Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Scott Boland.