Australia are no closer to having a locked in second spinner in the Test team following the third and final Test at the SCG.
The Australian selectors caused plenty of confusion among fans when they named Ashton Agar to partner with Nathan Lyon in Sydney.
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The Aussies entered the Sydney Test hoping to complete the three-nil series whitewash with a bowling attack consisting of two spinners, two quicks and then part-timers pitching in.
But the Agar gamble backfired and now leaves the Aussies with serious question marks hanging overhead before they head to India for a four-Test series.
Agar could have punched his ticket to the subcontinent with a quality showing against South Africa, but on a wicket not seen in Sydney for over a decade he couldn’t capitalise against a far inferior opponent to the one that awaits overseas.
It now leaves the Aussies, who won’t play another match until the Test series gets underway, in a nightmare position.
CODE Sports Lachlan McKirdy backed in the Aussies to venture into enemy territory with Lyon as the only full-time spinner being supported by Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne.
“Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne are both more than above average Test bowlers. I think there’s a big argument to only pick Nathan Lyon in India, if you’ve got both of them in your XI already,” he wrote.
Despite finishing the Sydney Test with bowling figures of 0/58 from 22 overs, Aussie skipper Pat Cummins all but confirmed Agar would be heading to India.
While Agar may well be named in the touring party that will set off to India ahead of the opening Test on February 9, his place and that of a second spinner in the XI remains unknown.
As the Aussies searched for a miracle on the final day in Sydney, Agar was tossed the ball to open the bowling in the second innings.
He almost collected the wicket of Sarel Erwee with only his second delivery, but beyond that he failed to truly test the tourists and never really threatened to capture a wicket.
“I’d be tempted to have a look at Travis Head,” Isa Guha said as the Fox Cricket commentators pondered how the Aussies would break apart the South African batting line-up.
Kerry O’Keefe said Head offered up a better look to the bowling attack than what was being offered up.
Cummins eventually tossed the ball to Labuschagne who delivered arguably the best over of the innings with his looping leg spinners.
If Australia do opt to go up against the might of the Indian batting attack with two spinners, here’s the options they have on the table.
The West Australian skipped the queue when he was named in the XI for the Sydney Test and despite his struggles appears to have already been handed his ticket to India.
South Africa’s batting attack pales in comparison to what the Aussies will face, but it mattered little for Agar who couldn’t get a breakthrough.
Agar hasn’t lit the world on fire with his recent bowling feats, his best effort from his past 10 matches was a 2/41 against the West Indies in November.
He does however hold a distinct advantage over his spinning counterparts with the willow in hand where he averages 28.38 in first class cricket. Batting however is not an issue for the Aussies.
Each and every summer Swepson’s name gets thrown around as fans call for a leg-spinner to be thrust back into the Australian XI.
Warne led the charge for the Queenslander’s inclusion in 2020, but it fell on deaf ears at the selection table.
That was until Australia’s tour of Pakistan when he was thrust into the team. On pitches that were at best described as lifeless, Swepson struggled as he finished with 2/266.
He bounced back against Sri Lanka by claiming seven wickets, but his form on home soil hasn’t warranted calls for his immediate inclusion into the squad.
Sydney would have been the perfect opportunity to blood Murphy on the big stage. While still considered a bolter, he’s earning high-level praise.
It went to a new level when he collected 4/52 against Sri Lanka for Australia A and has seen him branded as the heir apparent to Nathan Lyon’s throne.
“He’s as good an off-spinner I’ve seen since Nathan Lyon,” former Australian spinner Steve O’Keefe told foxsports.com.au.
“I think the ball comes out of his hand beautifully. He’s working on his variations, and he’s going to be a star for the Australian cricket team when the time comes.
“Every year he just seems to get a little bit better.”
The 22-year-old stole the limelight from Agar when he took 3/27 against the West Indies in November.
“Todd Murphy is the second-best spinner in the country,” former Australian spinner Kerry O‘Keeffe told Fox Cricket.
“I still think (Swepson) lacks precision, and going to India, you’ve got to take a precise spinner. Todd Murphy’s a precise spinner, I think he’s ahead of (Swepson) in my mind.”
Despite the praise from all corners only building for the young star, his inclusion in the team is unlikely alongside Lyon.
Australian’s just love a leg-spinner and Zampa has proved his worth on the national stage for the Aussies.
Of course his success has come in the 50 and 20-over formats, but the 30-year-old is keen on making the shift to the Test team.
“I feel like my game has evolved enough in the last few years. It’s just about seeing the workloads and how my body will cope really,” Zampa told Fox Cricket in November.
“I’d love to throw my hat in the ring.”
He backed up those claims when he returned to the Sheffield Shield arena and took 3/57 against Victoria.
Australian cricket great Allan Border said he’d love to see what Zampa could produce in the Test squad.
“I wouldn’t mind seeing Zampa,” Border said.
“I know he hasn’t played any red-ball cricket, which would be a bit of an odd selection.
“There’s something about Zampa, the way he’s developed over the last couple of seasons. He’s landing the ball well and his varieties are very, very good.”
Australia’s tour against India gets underway on February 9 in Nagpur.