Domain Test Series v New Zealand
BBL in focus as Agar pushes Test omission aside
Left-armer backs Mitchell Swepson to deliver if handed a Test debut at the SCG as spin contenders line up ahead of tour of Bangladesh
AAP & Cricket Network
30 December 2019, 05:30 PM AEST
Ashton Agar says he holds no bitterness about being leapfrogged into Test calculations by Mitchell Swepson, but says it’s hard to see how the leg-spinner will force his way into Australia’s Test side to face New Zealand at the SCG.
Agar played the last of his four Tests in 2017 and was picked for the tour of the UAE last year, but has been overlooked for the final Test of the summer.
He also trained with the Australian Test squad ahead of the Perth Test earlier this month, but the 26-year-old has taken news of Swepson’s call-up in his stride, and he hopes the leggie will thrive if he gets the opportunity.
"Certainly no disappointment, and absolutely no bitterness. I hope Sweppo goes really well," Agar said.
"I think I may have been on a sort of standby. But Mitch Swepson has bowled beautifully this year. His control looks great, he's bowling lovely wrong-uns and he deserves his spot there.
"It will be interesting to see what make-up they go with. I doubt they're going to play another spinner just because their quicks are firing so nicely."
Agar has taken three wickets at an average of 136 in the Marsh Sheffield Shield this season and with Victorian Jon Holland sidelined by injury and veteran NSW tweaker Steve O’Keefe nursing a minor calf problem, Swepson has been given the nod.
The Queenslander’s call up comes ahead of Australia’s two-Test tour of Bangladesh in June, where up to three spinners would be expected in an extended squad.
Test great Shane Warne has urged Australian selectors to include Swepson in the final XI for the third Domain Test in Sydney, but finding a spot for the 26-year-old is easier said than done.
With Australia's pace stars firing on all cylinders and off-spinner Nathan Lyon also in good form, Swepson's only hope for a call-up is seemingly if Australia drop one of their batsmen to unleash a five-pronged bowling attack.
That appears unlikely, especially given the emergence of Marnus Labuschagne as a capable back-up spinner and Travis Head's century in the Boxing Day Test.
Agar says he needs to bowl more consistently and take more wickets before he can be thrust back into the Test selection picture.
And for now, the left-armer is intent on helping the Perth Scorchers turn around their flagging form.
The Scorchers (1-3) will be aiming to snap a two-match losing run when they take on the Brisbane Heat at Metricon Stadium on Wednesday.
Master blaster Chris Lynn, fresh of his 94 against the Sydney Sixers, looms as the Scorchers' biggest threat.
But Agar said the team was confident the same plans that allowed them to dismiss Sixers opener Josh Philippe cheaply last week would also work against Lynn.
"We changed the pace up, we didn't give them two balls that were the same. That's what you need to do to Lynny," Agar said.
"Fortunately we've got two spinners as well - myself and Fawad Ahmed - who might be able to do a good job against him.
"If we follow the blueprint from the last game, I think we'll be ok."
Domain Test Series v New Zealand
Australia squad: David Warner, Joe Burns, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Matthew Wade, Travis Head, Tim Paine (c, wk), Pat Cummins, Mitch Starc, Nathan Lyon, James Pattinson, Michael Neser, Mitchell Swepson
New Zealand: Todd Astle, Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Matt Henry, Kyle Jamieson, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Jeet Raval, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, BJ Watling, Neil Wagner, Kane Williamson (c)
First Test: Australia won by 296 runs in Perth
Second Test: Australia won by 247 runs
Third Test: January 3-7, SCG (Seven, Fox & Kayo)