Injuries to key Australian pair Mitchell Starc and Cam Green could be a blessing in disguise approaching the third and final Test with the South Africans next week in Sydney, says KEN PIESSE.
Australia will field a recast XI for the summer’s fifth and final Test match, giving two if not three fringe players an opportunity to press their claims for the upcoming autumn time Test tour to India.
Queensland leg spinner Mitchell Swepson is among the beneficiaries and seems certain to make his Australian-soil Test debut with injuries to key bowlers Mitchell Starc and Cameron Green.
At least two changes are likely with Marcus Harris back in contention to open the batting and Josh Hazlewood a readymade replacement for Starc.
Swepson, Harris and Hazlewood need strong performances to tour India for the showdown between the two leading Test nations in the world. The four-Test series starts in February.
Starc was brave to take the new ball in the rain shortened third day’s play against the South Africans in Melbourne, but is unlikely to complete the game with the Australia looking to win another Test match within four days.
The loss of touring captain Dean Elgar again cheaply early in the final session on Wednesday was a crucial body blow for the South Africans, whose top six has been consistently mediocre.
All four of Swepson’s Test matches so far have been overseas. His selection as a second specialist spinner behind Nathan Lyon seems likely especially in spin-friendly Sydney. It would also be a forerunner to him being in the XI throughout the Test series with India.
Hazlewood should also play as a direct replacement for Starc. A side injury has sidelined him since the first Test of the summer in Perth, giving Victorian hero Scott Boland another window of opportunity.
If the Aussies opt to drop Usman Khawaja back down to No.6 as a replacement for the injured Green, Harris may be brought back as David Warner’s opening partner in Sydney.
His form this season has been consistent and includes a century at home against his old state Western Australia and 73 and 5 for the Prime Minister’s XI against the West Indies a month ago.
Some favor the promotion of newcomers Lance Morris and Aaron Hardie, both from Perth, but the selectors seem likely to initially favor those who have been in and around the Test squad in recent times.
The Australians will he hoping that captain Pat Cummins and Boland both emerge fully fit from their fourth day endeavors in Melbourne – otherwise another change or two may have to be made.
KEN PIESSE has covered cricket and football for more than 30 years in Melbourne. Despite that setback, Ken has written, published and edited 86 books on cricket and AFL football to become Australian sport’s most prolific author.
His latest cricket book is David Warner, The Bull, Daring to be Different with Wilkinson Publishing, out now