Qantas Tour of South Africa
Holland's 'shock' after screening phone call
Left-arm spinner thought his international days were over but surprising conversation offers hope once again
AAP & Cricket Network
23 January 2018, 10:22 AM AEST
A Test recall was so unexpected for Victorian left-arm spinner Jon Holland that he declined to answer the phone call from chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns.
The 30-year-old Victorian, playing his only two Tests during a 2016 tour of Sri Lanka, has a chance to don the Baggy Green again after being included for the Australian squad for the four-Test tour of South Africa in March.
Playing second fiddle to standout spinner Nathan Lyon, he said he wasn't anticipating another Test tour until 2019 when Australia returned to the subcontinent.
"I was in my car driving home, screened the call and then gave Trevor a call back a little bit later," he told 3AW.
"I did see (his name) but I thought it would have been bad news ... I waited a little bit and then called him back."
The left-arm orthodox spinner has taken 11 wickets at an average of 18.63 in two Sheffield Shield matches this season, after a 50-wicket campaign in 2016-17.
But he said with Lyon bowling beautifully, he couldn't see a way back in.
"It was a bit of a shock, a good shock," he said. "It's not something you expect to come along."
All the more so for the left-armer after he figured his international playing days were over when Ashton Agar was selected as the back-up spin option for the recent Sydney Test against England; one in a series of snubs for Holland since those two Tests in Sri Lanka 18 months earlier.
"I'm not sure why I wasn't picked in the Sydney Test as a second spinner," he said yesterday.
"Maybe Ashton was going to be an allrounder or something like that. So I'm not sure what the selectors are thinking. But to get called up, I'm not going to knock it back."
Cape Town, scene of the third Test, is traditionally the most-conducive South African pitch for slower bowlers. However, during the current series against India, a green top gifted 38 of 40 wickets to pacemen.
The most recent occurrence of Australia playing two specialist spinners in a Test on South Africa soil was in March 1994, when leg-spinner Shane Warne was joined by off-spinner Tim May in a match that the Proteas won by 197 runs.
In addition, left-arm finger spinners have traditionally struggled to make an impact in Tests in South Africa with Sri Lanka's Rangana Herath – the most successful orthodox spinner the game has seen – returning 16 wickets at 35.31 (compared to his career average of 28.06) from his six appearances there.
That fact has been acknowledged by Hohns, who claimed in announcing the 15-man squad that Holland was essentially included as an understudy for Lyon.
"We envisage the wickets we will see in South Africa will not warrant the need to play two spinners," Hohns said.
"Therefore, should Nathan not be able to play at any stage, we wanted to have the best specialist spinner available to us and based on current red-ball form Jon warrants that spot."
Qantas tour of South Africa
Australia squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Jackson Bird, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine, Jhye Richardson, Mitchell Starc.
Warm-up match v SA Invitational XI, Sahara Park, Benoni, Feb 22-24
First Test Kingsmead, Durban, March 1-5
Second Test St George's Park, Port Elizabeth, March 9-13
Third Test Newlands, Cape Town, March 22-26
Fourth Test Wanderers, Johannesburg, March 30-April 3