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Australia indicates 2 spinners best option for Karachi Tests

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KARACHI: Australian captain Pat Cummins and interim coach Andrew McDonald gave strong indications they are leaning towards picking two spinners for the second Test in Karachi starting March 12 (Saturday), but said Australia will need to see the pitch first and hope it doesn’t resemble the ‘Rawalpindi Road’ they endured over five uninspiring days.

Australia traveled to Karachi on Wednesday. After eight attempts, Australia has never won a Test in Pakistan’s largest city.
Cummins said Australia’s research suggested picking two frontline spinners in Karachi was “probably the way to go”.

Leg-spinner Mitch Swepson, yet to feature in a Test, and left-arm orthodox option Ashton Agar has been bowling in the middle on a practice wicket after each day’s play.

Despite a draw in the first Test, which seemed inevitable from about day three when Pakistan made 4(dec)-476, the Australian captain said he was unconcerned about their performance despite taking four wickets from 239 overs.

The dull result, in which the home side finished at 0-252 in their second innings with Australia yet to bat again, was a disappointing end to a Test that had enjoyed so much hype given Australia’s 24-year-old absence from touring Pakistan.

Australia was criticized on day one for not picking two spinners on a pitch that showed little signs of breaking up all match but Cummins said the Rawalpindi surface was so bereft of life that he didn’t think it would have mattered.

There is a short turnaround to the second of the three-match series, with Australia set to train on Thursday and Friday before the Saturday start.

If drier and slower conditions do greet Australia in Karachi, as is expected, one or both could partner Nathan Lyon. Test spinners average 32.54 in Karachi, which is eight runs fewer than Rawalpindi.

“Our intel for Karachi and Lahore [is that two spinners] is probably the way to go,” Cummins said. “We’ll have a look at the wicket first. [Playing two spinners] may have been helpful here but I don’t think it would have made too much difference.

“It is an asset for sure, having a wrist spinner. It is something a bit different and Sweppo has been bowling beautifully. We’ll get to Karachi and have a look but absolutely Sweppo as a wrist spinner is a huge chance if we play two.”

McDonald, who is on the selection panel, hinted dual spinners would be likely, who could bowl alongside Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head, who sent down a combined 43 overs in Rawalpindi.

“We will get down to the ground two days out and ask each other the usual questions we ask ourselves … that may lead to two spinners,” McDonald said.

“If the surface dictates another way of doing it, then it could be three or back to one spinner, who knows. It probably lends itself … to a two-spin venue.”

Australia’s pace bowlers were spared from any extreme labour on day five, with Starc’s seven overs the most of the three frontline quicks.

All-rounder Cameron Green only bowled four overs in the second innings, which will keep him fresher if Australia were to pick two spinners and two pace bowlers plus the 22-year-old who also scored 48 runs at No.6.

“I think all the quick bowlers, although we’ve spent the best part of three days out on the field, I think we’ve all bowled around 25, max 30 overs each, which in comparison to Australian Test matches is actually a pretty light workload,” Cummins said. “We didn’t get a huge look at reverse swing this Test but that might come into it later on.”

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