Domain Test Series v Pakistan
Warne ponders Australia's spin depth as Bangladesh looms
Spin king discusses Australia's spin options in Test cricket ahead of home summer and tour of Bangladesh next year
25 October 2019, 10:57 AM AEST
Test legend Shane Warne has urged state teams to “always” pick a spinner in their Marsh Sheffield Shield teams as Australia consider who will provide support to frontline tweaker Nathan Lyon on next year’s Test tour of Bangladesh.
South Australia’s Tom Andrews and Ashton Agar at Western Australia are the only two spin bowlers to have played in both of their state’s opening two Shield matches this season, with Adam Zampa, Jon Holland, Mitchell Swepson and Stephen O'Keefe all missing games due to injury or selection.
A total of just 18 wickets have fallen to spin in the opening six games, seven of which have come from Marnus Labuschagne, Glenn Maxwell and Beau Webster, who are all considered more batsmen than bowlers.
Australia didn’t pick a second frontline spinner behind Lyon in their extended Ashes squad earlier this year and Warne, the second-most prolific bowler in Test history, believes selectors would be scrambling for options should injury befall the resilient off-spinner this summer.
And with Australia to play two Tests on spin-friendly wickets in Bangladesh next June, the race to be Lyon’s spin partner appears wide open.
"If something happened to Lyon, it would be a real issue," Warne said at Fox Cricket's season launch on Thursday.
"It's important for this summer for Australia now ... if something does happen to Nathan that someone can step up.
"I'm not sure who that person can be."
Lyon’s impressive durability during his eight years at Test level – he’s never missed a match due to injury in his 91-Test career – means Australia have rarely had to consider a second slow bowler outside tours of Asia.
And while that’s likely to continue for Australia’s five Tests this summer, unless Lyon suffers a freak injury or conditions demand a second tweaker, selectors are expected to look beyond the 31-year-old for their two Tests in Bangladesh that are slated for next June.
Holland and Agar both toured the UAE 12 months ago for Australia’s series against Pakistan, where the Victorian picked up four wickets at an average of 75 in two Tests as Lyon’s spin partner.
Agar performed admirably on Australia’s tour of Bangladesh in 2017, taking seven wickets in two Tests, while his batting and fielding make him an attractive all-round package.
However, he’s played just eight first-class matches in the two years since that series, taking 19 wickets at an average of 38.5.
Holland is regularly the leading spinner in Shield cricket and led all slow bowlers with 26 dismissals at 28 last summer, ahead of Queensland leggie Swepson (24 wickets at 38), Lyon (20 at 21), NSW veteran O’Keefe (20 at 28) and Redbacks left-armer Andrews (12 at 14.5).
Andrews, like Agar, offers an all-round option; he averages almost 40 with the bat in eight first-class games and posted his maiden first-class century earlier this month.
But with the likes of Holland, Swepson, Zampa and O’Keefe missing Shield games so far this season - partly due to the fact there have been two matches each at the seam-friendly Gabba and WACA Ground – there is currently no standout Test candidate behind Lyon.
An alternative for selectors would be to pick Lyon as the sole frontline spinner and use the part-time leg-spin of batters Labuschagne and Steve Smith if conditions favour slow bowling.
Either way, Warne says state teams have a duty to nurture spin-bowling talent in the first-class system.
"They should always pick a spinner," he said.
"You don't just pick a team for the first innings, there is always a second innings.
"It's disappointing if captains for sides are not picking spinners no matter what the conditions.
"We should still be encouraging spinners for all conditions, they've got to learn.
"The job of all Sheffield Shield teams and domestic cricket is to make sure you produce international cricketers. It's not just looking after your own state."
Domain Test Series v Pakistan
Australia squad: TBC
Pakistan squad: Azhar Ali (c), Abid Ali, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Imam-ul-Haq, Imran Khan Snr, Iftikhar Ahmed, Kashif Bhatti, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Musa Khan, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Yasir Shah.
Warm-up match: v Cricket Australia XI, November 11-13, Perth Stadium (d/n)
Warm-up match: v Cricket Australia XI, November 15-16, WACA Ground
First Test: November 21-25, Gabba (Seven, Fox & Kayo)