Australia has given a test debut to leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson as another slow wicket looms for the tourists in the second test against Pakistan at Karachi.
Swepson first toured with Australia’s test side five years ago and has consistently been Nathan Lyon’s spin deputy in the past few years, but has not been able to make the final XI.
The Queenslander bowler will be the first frontline leg-spinner to debut in tests for Australia’s men’s team since Bryce McGain’s one-off test in 2009 against South Africa at Cape Town.
“He’s (Swepson) pumped, to be honest, we’re all pumped,” Australia captain Pat Cummins said Friday ahead of Saturday’s second test. “He’s been a huge part of the squad, even though he hasn’t been playing, so we’re really excited to see him get a chance.”
Swepson will replace Josh Hazlewood in the only change Australia made from the team which played to a tame draw on a flat wicket at Rawalpindi.
Australia’s first test in Pakistan since 1998 on a docile wicket of Pindi Cricket Stadium saw only 14 wickets fell in 14 sessions and the pitch was rated as “below average” by the International Cricket Council.
Another slow, low-bouncy wicket is being prepared for the second test of the three-match series.
“We think particularly a wrist-spinner of Swepo’s quality gives us a best opportunity to take 20 wickets,” Cummins said. “History shows the spin is probably more damaging here than the pacemen.”
Swepson has taken 154 wickets in 51 first-class games at an average of 33.45, but three of his four five-wicket hauls came in three successive Sheffield Shield domestic first-class games in late 2020.
Veteran off-spinner Lyon could take only one wicket on a lifeless wicket at Rawalpindi after bowling 78 overs in two innings for 236 runs. Pakistan batters plundered 476-4 declared and then Imam-ul-Haq smashed centuries in each innings with the home team reaching 252-0 in the second innings.
Pakistan’s fast bowlers Hasan Ali and Faheem Ashraf are free from injuries or illness and are available for selection. Ashraf had a positive COVID-19 test on Wednesday, but the all-rounder underwent another test on Thursday which was negative and he later rejoined the squad.
“We will be watching his (Swepson) videos later and will plan accordingly,” Pakistan captain Babar Azam said.
Babar didn’t reveal whether both Hasan and Ashraf will come into the final XI, but if both make it to the starting side, fast bowler Naseem Shah and allrounder Iftikhar Ahmed could miss out.
On the docile wicket, Pakistan batters dominated both pace and spin of Lyon with Imam and Azhar Ali scoring big centuries in the first innings and Imam’s opening partner Abdullah Shafique notching his debut hundred in the record-breaking opening stand.
Babar believes Pakistan batters will have another dominant test at Karachi with his two spinners Sajid Khan and Nauman Ali exploiting the drier conditions.
“The momentum is with us,” Babar said. “We dominated the first test, there’s no fear factor. The wicket looks quite sporting and we hope our spinners will play a crucial role as the game progresses.”
Australia: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins (captain), Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Swepson.