Pakistan v Australia Test - Men's
Aussie XI picked for UAE tour match
Neser and Head among those included as new coach Justin Langer hones Test preparations
Louis Cameron in Dubai
27 September 2018, 09:23 PM AEST
Australia have offered a handful of clues to the shape of their side to face Pakistan for the first Test, naming an XI for their upcoming four-day tour game beginning Saturday.
Uncapped trio Aaron Finch, Travis Head and Michael Neser, as well two-Test spinner Jon Holland, have all been named in the team to play Pakistan A at the International Cricket Council Academy in Dubai.
The match has official first-class status, meaning the four omissions from Australia's 15-player squad – Ashton Agar, Marnus Labuschagne, Peter Siddle and Brendan Doggett – will not play any part barring any late changes.
Finch is expected to open the batting alongside Matthew Renshaw and would appear to have the inside running to make his Test debut in the series opener at the nearby Dubai International Cricket Stadium from October 7.
Neser will have a golden opportunity to cement his spot as spearhead Mitchell Starc's pace partner for the first Test, pipping fellow quicks Siddle and Doggett for selection in the tour game. A right-armer from Queensland, Neser was a part of Queensland's JLT Sheffield Shield-winning side and has established a reputation as one of the country's better swing bowlers.
Head has been chosen to fill one of the key middle-order berths, but it's understood Labuschagne, along with the other three players to miss the tour game, all remain in contention for a first Test berth.
Labuschagne has said he's happy to bat anywhere he's required but it appears the middle-order spot Head will occupy for the tour match would be the Queenslander's best avenue for a potential Test debut.
Agar is still recovering from a minor shoulder injury he sustained after staying back for the start of Western Australia's JLT One-Day Cup campaign, but the left-armer has arrived in the UAE and bowled extensively in sweltering heat at Australia training at the ICC Academy on Thursday.
Holland seems the more likely spin partner for Nathan Lyon for the first Test, with the 300-wicket man recently backing the Victorian for a recall.
"I'm a big fan of Jon Holland's," said Lyon earlier this week. "He's done extremely well in the (Sheffield) Shield back home over the last few years, he's a very talented bowler.
"He spins up the back of the ball which I love, it's my absolute mantra.
"We're good mates as well. Our communication bowling out in the middle (during centre-wicket practice on Sunday) was brilliant.
"Hopefully we can really build that relationship here and take that out into the middle, that's going to be a massive key for us … we're going to get a lot of work over here."
Pakistan A have picked a strong side for the lead-in match, led by Test star Asad Shafiq and featuring fiery left-arm quick Wahab Riaz.
But the hosts have not picked a front-line spin bowler, a blow for an Australian side expecting to face plenty of slow-bowling in two-Test series also featuring a match in Abu Dhabi.
Australia XI for tour match v Pakistan A: Tim Paine (c), Aaron Finch, Matthew Renshaw, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Travis Head, Mitch Marsh, Michael Neser, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Jon Holland.
Pakistan A squad: Asad Shafiq (c), Sami Aslam, Abid Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed, Usman Salahuddin, Saad Ali, Agha Salman, Muhammad Rizwan, Waqas Maqsood, Wahab Riaz, Rahat Ali, Amir Yamin, Umaid Asif, Saud Shakeel.
Qantas Tour of the UAE
Australia Test squad: Tim Paine (c), Ashton Agar, Brendan Doggett, Aaron Finch, Travis Head, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Michael Neser, Matthew Renshaw, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc
Sep 29 - Oct 2: Tour match v Pak A, Dubai
Oct 7-11: First Test, Dubai
Oct 16-20: Second Test, Abu Dhabi