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Aussie spinner mystery for Sydney Test

With Australia to announce a squad for the fifth Test, conjecture surrounds who - if anyone - will partner Nathan Lyon

Former Test batsman Mike Hussey expects Australia to bring a second spinner into their squad for the fifth Magellan Ashes Test in Sydney.

He just doesn't know who it will be.

Selectors are set to announce a squad for the final Test of the summer at the end of the current match in Melbourne and the prospect of a dual spin attack looms large at a venue that has favoured slow bowling in recent years.

But with no JLT Sheffield Shield matches at the SCG so far this summer, selectors are somewhat flying blind in regards to whether or not the pitch will take turn again this season.

On commentary duty for Thursday's KFC BBL game at the venue, selector Mark Waugh even joked that head selector Trevor Hohns had asked him to take a photo of the centre wicket as part of the panel's intelligence gathering for the upcoming Test. Waugh added a second spinner "will come into the discussion for sure" after Nathan Lyon and Stephen O'Keefe both played in the past two SCG Tests.

After Australia's bowlers were battered by England's batsmen on Thursday, Hussey believes injured quick Mitchell Starc is a big chance of returning to the playing XI and that a second spinner will at least be added to an extended squad with a view to playing if conditions suit.

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"I heard (Starc) was quite close to playing here in Melbourne, so you'd expect him to be fit for Sydney and that would be a huge in for Australia," Hussey told cricket.com.au.

"As far as a second spinner goes, they'll have to check out the conditions. There hasn't been a Sheffield Shield game at the SCG so we don't really know what to expect. There's been a couple of Big Bash games, but that's a completely different format.

"I'd expect a spinner to come into the squad (but I'm not sure) who it might be."


There are several candidates but no obvious frontrunner for the second spin role after both Steve O'Keefe and Ashton Agar had a taste of Test cricket this year, while uncapped leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson was picked for the tours of India and Bangladesh.

After taking 19 wickets in four Tests against India (14 of which came in the opening match), O'Keefe was dropped for the Bangladesh series in favour of Agar, but the veteran earned a surprise reprieve and played alongside Lyon and Agar in the final Test in Chittagong.

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Holland, who played two Tests in Sri Lanka in 2016, was overlooked for both tours this year despite being the standout spinner in Shield cricket in recent years. He took 50 wickets at 21 last Shield campaign and after missing the first three games of this summer due to injury, picked up 11 dismissals in just two games before the mid-season break.

O'Keefe (four wickets in two games) and Agar (four wickets in one game) have also had their Shield campaigns affected by injury, while leggies Swepson and Fawad Ahmed (16 wickets each) have led all spinners this season.

Hussey says the manoeuvring of Australia's spin options this year has left him in the dark as to who the selectors will pick for the Sydney Test.

"I'm no clearer at all, I don't know which way they're going to go," he said.

"I think in the short form of the game they like Ashton Agar because he fields well and he bats well and he's a developing bowler, he's getting better and better every year. He's certainly one the selectors have got their eye on.

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"Stephen O'Keefe has been a quality bowler for a long time for New South Wales. Jon Holland played one or two Test matches against Sri Lanka and his form for Victoria has been outstanding, but he doesn’t seem to be the one the selectors are backing at this stage.

"I don't know which way they're going to go, it's going to be interesting."

Hussey also disagreed with the notion that a dead rubber fifth Test gave selectors the chance to look to the future and gamble on an untried player like Swepson.

"I don't like experimenting with the Australian Test team," he said.

"I like guys to earn their spot, really own it and dominate the level below and once they've done that they deserve a chance to wear that Baggy Green cap. I want the best available and who deserves it the most."

2017-18 International Fixtures

Magellan Ashes Series

Australia Test squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine (wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird.

England Test squad: Joe Root (c), James Anderson (vc), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Mason Crane, Tom Curran, Ben Foakes, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ben Stokes, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Chris Woakes.

First Test Australia won by 10 wickets. Scorecard

Second Test Australia won by 120 runs (Day-Night). Scorecard

Third Test Australia won by an innings and 41 runs. Scorecard

Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Tickets

Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Tickets

Gillette ODI Series v England

First ODI MCG, January 14. Tickets

Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Tickets

Third ODI SCG, January 21. Tickets

Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Tickets

Fifth ODI Perth Stadium, January 28. Tickets

Prime Minister's XI

PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Tickets

Gillette T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series

First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Tickets

Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Tickets

Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Tickets

Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 14

Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16

Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21