Queenslander could become first specialist Australia legspinner to play Test cricket since Bryce McGain in 2009
But their opponents picked two specialist spinners and a spin-bowling allrounder, who took seven wickets between them, and Pakistan did bowl Australia out – albeit in 140.1 overs. Australia’s spinners managed just two wickets, and their bowlers only three in total. The fourth wicket in three days of bowling came via a run-out.
Australia’s quicks were also arguably out-bowled by Shaheen Shah Afridi and Naseem Shah, who took three wickets between them, and at times bowled without luck. Cummins, however, had no regrets about not picking the legspinner for Rawalpindi.
“I think it may have been helpful here, but I don’t think it would have made too much of a difference,” he said. “Here you probably expected more up-and-down bounce and reverse swing, which lends more support to the fast bowlers rather than spinners. Our intel from Karachi and Lahore says a second spinner is probably the way to go. But we’ll have to look. “
Swepson, 28, has played 51 first-class matches and has 154 wickets at 33.45 with four five-wicket hauls. Three of those came in three consecutive Sheffield Shield innings across a 13-day stretch in October-November of 2020. But that was also the last time he played as many first-class matches in succession, bagging 23 wickets in those three games.
“I thought Nathan Lyon bowled really well. Even today [the fifth day]he created three or four chances that didn’t go to hand “
Pat Cummins on his offspinner’s performance in the Rawalpindi Test
It will be a big ask for him to step straight into Test-match cricket, but Australia might need Swepson to have an impact immediately if they are to make inroads into Pakistan’s batting – particularly given Lyon’s returns. Australia’s No. 1 spinner bowled better than his Rawalpindi figures of 1 for 236 from 78 overs suggested, something that his captain noted.
“I thought Nathan Lyon bowled really well this Test match,” Cummins said. “Even today he probably created three or four chances that he just didn’t go to hand. So yeah, it’s one of those things you don’t look too closely at.”
Lyon did have two difficult catches dropped by Alex Carey in the first innings, while Australia opted not to review two chances off Imam-ul-Haq, both of which would have been overturned in Lyon’s favor. But even discounting the Rawalpindi match, in nine Tests from February 2020 onward, Lyon’s strike rate is 84 compared to his career rate of 65.2, and he hasn’t taken a five-wicket haul in 14 innings.
If Australia are to win in Pakistan, they will need their spinners to strike.
Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo