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Which Test line-up will Australia choose in Pakistan?



Australia have options galore for their first Test team in Pakistan on Friday but if they follow the local knowledge, they may end up sticking with their traditional line-up.

After picking a bigger-than-usual 18-man squad for the three-match Test series part of the tour due to the threat of COVID-19, it gives Australia flexibility to replace players quickly if the virus strikes.

The extended squad, plus the utility provided by all-rounder Cameron Green, means interim coach Andrew McDonald could look to move away from the usual line-up of five specialist batters, Green at six, Alex Carey as the keeper then a front-line bowling attack of three seamers and Nathan Lyon to provide spin.

Mitchell Marsh is another all-rounder option although his bowling has fallen away in recent seasons and would not be considered a realistic option as a third seamer if two spinners were used in Australia’s first visit to Pakistan since Mark Taylor’s team won a three-Test contest 1-0 in 1998.

If the first pitch at Rawalpindi looks like it will be spin friendly, uncapped leggie Mitch Swepson and Ashton Agar will battle it out to be Lyon’s accomplice, meaning Cummins will be forced to choose between Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Scott Boland to be his second paceman.

Pakistan have favoured pace over spin in the five Tests played on home soil since returning in 2019 after two decades hosting matches in the UAE for security reasons. 

In their return match, played in December that year, they picked seamers as their four front-line bowlers and barely bowled much spin apart from a few overs from part-timers in a rain-ruined drawn game at Rawalpindi. 

Leg-spinner Yasir Shah played in the second match of the series at Karachi but pace took 16 of the 20 wickets to fall as Pakistan smashed Sri Lanka by 263 runs. 

Pakistan hosted Bangladesh for what was supposed to be a two-game series in 2020 and after their fast bowlers accounted for 16 wickets in the first Test win, the second match was cancelled as the COVID-19 pandemic started causing global havoc.

They hosted South Africa for two Tests last year, bringing left-arm finger-spinner Nauman Ali in to partner Yasir while also playing three seamers with the tweakers taking 14 wickets between them on a turning Karachi deck in the first match.

Game two was in Rawalpindi and after fielding the same attack, the spinners only took one wicket between them as the pace battery sealed an emphatic 2-0 series triumph.

Australia’s batting line-up looks set in stone. Usman Khawaja, despite a couple of low scores when promoted to open on a green Hobart wicket, is set to partner David Warner with Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith and Travis Head forming the middle order.

The No.6 slot appears unlikely to be taken from Green by Marsh although there’s a slight chance Australia could pick Agar, easily the best batter among the bowlers, as the second spinner in a five-man bowling line-up and promote him or keeper Alex Carey up the order.

Mitchell Swepson bowls

Mitchell Swepson (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

Cummins will play, so will Lyon, which means the remaining two spots are up for grabs between Hazlewood, Starc, Boland, Swepson and Agar.

Hazlewood only played the first match of the 4-0 Ashes triumph due to a side strain but he and Cummins are the only two Australians in the top 10 of the ICC’s Test bowler rankings.

Boland was the find of the Ashes but with only three Tests on his resume, is unlikely to get the nod ahead of Starc. You can bet that Shane Warne will tweet before day one to say he’d probably leave Starc out of the side if he were a selector.

So that means if the Australians don’t think the pitch will turn enough to gamble on handing Swepson his debut, then Starc will get yet another opportunity alongside his three NSW comrades Cummins, Hazlewood and Lyon.

Australia’s options in Pakistan

The likely, traditional XI

  1. David Warner
  2. Usman Khawaja
  3. Marnus Labuschagne
  4. Steve Smith
  5. Travis Head
  6. Cameron Green
  7. Alex Carey
  8. Mitchell Starc
  9. Pat Cummins
  10. Nathan Lyon
  11. Josh Hazlewood

The two spinners XI

  1. David Warner
  2. Usman Khawaja
  3. Marnus Labuschagne
  4. Steve Smith
  5. Travis Head
  6. Cameron Green
  7. Alex Carey
  8. Pat Cummins
  9. Nathan Lyon
  10. Josh Hazlewood
  11.  Mitch Swepson

The five bowlers XI

  1. David Warner
  2. Usman Khawaja
  3. Marnus Labuschagne
  4. Steve Smith
  5. Travis Head
  6. Alex Carey
  7. Ashton Agar
  8. Mitchell Starc
  9. Pat Cummins
  10. Nathan Lyon
  11.  Josh Hazlewood

The radical all-rounder heavy option

  1. David Warner
  2. Usman Khawaja
  3. Marnus Labuschagne
  4. Steve Smith
  5. Mitchell Marsh
  6. Cameron Green
  7. Alex Carey
  8. Ashton Agar
  9. Pat Cummins
  10. Nathan Lyon
  11.  Josh Hazlewood



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