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Hazelwood out, Smith and Warner in World Cup squad

Cricket

Josh Hazlewood has missed out on Cricket World Cup selection while fellow pacemen Nathan Coulter-Nile and Jason Behrendorff are surprise picks in Australia’s 15-man squad for the title defence.

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Former captain Steve Smith and David Warner both return to international duty from their 12-month bans in a national squad led by Aaron Finch.

Peter Handscomb is the other notable omission to make room for the returns of Smith and Warner, with selectors opting for just one main wicketkeeper in Alex Carey.

The biggest shock is the omission of Hazlewood, who hasn’t played a one-dayer for Australia since November due to injury, but can lay claim to being one of the team’s best bowlers over the past two years.

His 17 wickets over that period have come at a team-low average of 25.05, while his economy rate of 5.01 is second only to Pat Cummins among the quicks.

Chief selector Trevor Hohns made it clear the panel want Hazlewood to focus on being fit and firing for the subsequent Ashes series in England as he returns from a back injury.

He has been selected in the Australia A squad which will play in England during the World Cup.

“Having not played at the highest level for some time, we feel this will provide him with the best preparation to get some quality cricket under his belt,” Hohns said.

“Our focus is to have Josh back bowling at his best for the commencement of a big Ashes tour.”

Fellow paceman Jhye Richardson and Mitchell Starc were included in the World Cup squad as they prepare to return after shoulder dislocation and pectoral injuries respectively.

Richardson’s undeniable recent ODI form, which included 17 wickets in eight matches, no doubt made the decision to overlook Hazlewood somewhat easier.

It means Coulter-Nile and Behrendorff will likely be the back up quicks, while Adam Zampa and Nathan Lyon have both been picked as spinning options.

The biggest questions will likely surround Australia’s batting line up when Australia opens its World Cup campaign against Afghanistan on June 1, with Finch, Khawaja and Warner in a three-way battle to open the batting.

Finch and Usman Khawaja have averaged 81 for the opening stand in 10 games together in the past year – the highest of any regular combination over the past 12 months.

But Warner looks in devastating form, topping the Indian Premier League run-scoring lists with 400 at an average of 80 while batting at the top of the order for Sunrisers Hyderabad.

Khawaja could realistically drop to No.3, with Smith to bat at No.4 before allrounders Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis fight with Shaun Marsh for spots in the middle order.

-AAP

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