Pakistan v Australia Test - Men's
Spin trio a chance for Pakistan Tests
Spin leader hands strong endorsement to Jon Holland, says Australia must be open to playing three spinners in the UAE
Louis Cameron in Dubai
24 September 2018, 11:50 AM AEST
Australia must seriously consider playing three spinners if presented with turning surfaces in the United Arab Emirates, says Nathan Lyon, who suggested Pakistan will again ruthlessly target the visitors' slow bowlers in the upcoming Test series.
Recalled left-armer Jon Holland also received a strong endorsement from Australia's greatest ever off-spinner, as the duo spent another sweltering training session bowling in tandem and trading tips at the ICC Academy on Sunday.
All options remain on the table still two weeks out from the first Test but Holland appears a strong chance to feature in the series-opener in Dubai, as the Aussies mull the best method for capturing 20 wickets in the absence of star quicks Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins.
Australia successfully employed three specialist spinners and a lone quick for the first time in 40 years for their most recent Test on the subcontinent (against Bangladesh last year) and they could follow that blueprint should they encounter another raging turner for their series-opener in Dubai.
Coach Justin Langer has urged part-time spinners in the squad to be ready to bowl and a four-day tour match against Pakistan A beginning Saturday shapes as a crucial trial for a side also missing its two best batsmen.
Fresh in the Australians' minds is the minefield they were served up in Pune last year on their tour of India, where the ball spun square from day one but Lyon, himself a former groundsman, is also mindful of the flatter UAE pitches Australia encountered on their last Test tour there in 2014.
"If it's going to be a Pune wicket, why wouldn't you play three spinners?" Lyon told cricket.com.au. "But going off the last tour here, they were pretty flat, they were hard work.
"Definitely, we have to be open (to three spinners) over here. It's hard to say until you see the conditions we'll be faced with."
Ashton Agar, who has stayed behind for the beginning of Western Australia's JLT Cup campaign, is the other frontline spinner selected in the squad. He was rested from the Warriors match against South Australia on Saturday after a minor shoulder injury as a precaution but is expected to link up with the Test squad on Monday.
Even if only two specialist spinners are selected, Lyon believes uncapped duo Marnus Labuschagne (a part-time leg-spinner) and Travis Head (off-spin) are more-than-handy options with the ball.
"The two guys, in my eyes, vying for the batting five and batting six (spots), Marnus and Travis Head, they both offer us a spin component as well," continued Lyon.
"We're going to have minimum three spinners in the side no matter what anyway and whether they want to go with the three frontline spinners, that's totally up to 'Cracker' (selection chair Trevor Hohns) and 'JL' (coach Justin Langer) and (captain) Tim Paine."
Holland hasn't played international cricket since his debut series in Sri Lanka in 2016 but Lyon says the pair have already built up a strong rapport.
"I'm a big fan of Jon Holland's," said Lyon. "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."
Whether or not the Aussies get the kind of Pune-style pitch Lyon so easily recalls remains to be seen, he and his slow-bowling partner/s look set to play a major part in the series.
Spin has generally been more effective than pace at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in the past and Pakistan's ace leggie Yasir Shah is the ground's joint most successful bowler with 37 wickets in six Tests.
The wear and tear created by the ongoing Asia Cup tournament, which will see eight games played at the stadium in the space of 13 days, could also help the spinners.
Either way, Lyon looms as arguably Australia's most important player, having collected 41 wickets at 19 in six Tests in Asia last year, and the 30-year-old expects Pakistan to come as hard at him as they did in 2014.
"Four years ago, they really tried to attack me, which I'm expecting pretty much the same type of batting," he said.
"They've got different guys, rather than Younis (Khan) and Misbah (ul-Haq), but they've still got a very talented batting line up, some superstars in there as well.
"It's going to be a great challenge and they're going to bring the game to us, and that's going to be the exciting part."
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