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Australian pacer Josh Hazlewood celebrates with Royal Challengers Bangalore teammates during the IPL match against Lucknow Super Giants on Monday. Image Credit: AFP

Melbourne: Paceman Josh Hazlewood handed Australia an Ashes boost as he made a successful return from an Achilles injury to help Royal Challengers Bangalore beat Lucknow Super Giants by 18 runs in the Indian Premier League.

Hazlewood took 2-15 in his three overs as RCB successfully defended a modest total of 126 for nine on Monday.

“It has been a long layoff,” Hazlewood said of his four months on the sidelines since injuring his Achilles during the Sydney Test in January.

Exciting to be back

“I was excited more than nervous. It is great to be back out here, in front of some good fans, and have a good hit out.”

Hazlewood has been working with Cricket Australia medical staff to get fit in time for the tour of England, which starts with the World Test Championship final against India in June followed by the Ashes.

Hazlewood took 20 wickets at an average of 21.85 in four Tests during the 2019 Ashes in England, which ended in a 2-2 draw and saw Australia retain the urn.

Test championship final

Meanwhile, former Australian captain Michael Clarke said he’s not pleased with Josh Hazlewood’s decision to compete in the IPL as he believes the pacer should be focusing on preparing for the World Test Championship final and the Ashes.

The 32-year-old was one of only four specialist pacemen named in the Aussies’ squad for the first half of their campaign in England.

While national selectors were pleased that Hazlewood used the IPL to build up his bowling loads, Clarke believes that the pacer should be in Australia and concentrate on red-ball cricket.

Great to see him back

“I don’t know why he’s over playing IPL. I don’t know why he’s not over here in Australia preparing to play Test match cricket,” Clarke was quoted by Fox Cricket.

“I know they’ll have people over there, in the nets he’ll be bowling more than what the IPL players are bowling, in preparation for Test match cricket.

“But I just don’t know if him bowling three overs, four overs right now is his best preparation for an Ashes series, after the injuries he’s had and the amount of time he’s had out of Test cricket.

“It’s great to see him back playing, there’s no doubt about it … but for Australian Test cricket fans, you want to see him at his best for this Ashes series,” Clarke said.

Significant money

Clarke further stressed that a significant amount of money associated with the IPL would make it difficult for players to refuse the chance to participate in the tournament. He was unsure whether Cricket Australia should have intervened and prevented Hazlewood from participating in the T20 tournament.

“They can do it now. They can stop you going. But it’s India. Are you kidding? No-one is saying no to India,” he said.

“Unless Cricket Australia are going to say, ‘OK the IPL has just offered you $3 million for eight weeks … we’ll pay you that $3 million you stay home and train with us,’ there’s nothing they can do,” he added.