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Pakistan will test Australia's spinning stocks in the UAE

Australia's Nathan Lyon was impressive in the BBL, yet still wasn't on the plane to India for the World T20. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)
Roar Rookie
10th March, 2014
16

So the southern hemisphere summer has finally ended with the Australian cricket team victorious over England and South Africa. Now that these Test series are over and the T20 World Cup is up next, spinners have become one of my main concerns.

The spinners picked for the T20 World Cup are a good mixture. With 43-year-old Brad Hogg leading the way and boom 20-year old James Muirhead beside him, it promises to be very exciting after the summers they both had on not-so-spin-friendly pitches.

In back-up roles are part-timers Cameron White, Brad Hodge and Aaron Finch. And you connot forget ‘The Big Show’, all-rounder Glenn Maxwell, with his darty off-spinners.

My concern is not the World Cup in Bangladesh. With our recent Test cricket run being so good, my concern is for our next Test series against Pakistan in the UAE – their adopted home.

One issue is how our bastmen will play the likes of Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman and perhaps Mohammad Hafeez on what have been helpful spinning pitches.

Apart from Michael Clarke and Steve Smith, how will the likes of Chris Rogers, David Warner, Shane Watson and Alex Doolan or Shaun Marsh fare against quality spinners?

But my main concern is the quality of spinners we will take over there.

With the tracks in Dubai and Abu Dhabi being slow and really only supporting seamers on the first morning, Mitchell Johnson and company will have less of an effect than on our hard, bouncy wickets.

So I have compiled a shortlist of spinners that could make the final 15-man squad.

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Nathan Lyon
Australia’s obvious No. 1 spinner for a little over 18 months now. In the Ashes series he played the role as the back-up or holder while Johnson, Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle attacked from the other end.

After being left out of the first two Tests in England, Lyon showed what he was made of in the home series. He bowled well throughout the series, particularly in Brisbane and Melbourne.

In Brisbane he took the crucial wickets of Ian Bell and Matt Prior in successive balls, both caught well by Steve Smith. In Melbourne he took his fourth five-wicket haul in Tests.

The last time he played in real spin-friendly conditions he took career-best figures of 7-94 in India.

He struggled against the attacking attitude of AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis in South Africa, though. He did take a five-for in Port Elizabeth, but leaked too many runs.

Fawad Ahmed
Looked like he was going to be picked for the first Ashes Test in Brisbane, as England, in the past, have had no answers to leg-spinning legends Bill O’Reilly, Clarrie Grimmett, Stuart MacGill and the master, Shane Warne.

He looked good in his ‘trial’ in the ODI series in England, although not taking the wickets he and Australia would have liked.

Ahmed has been in and out of the Victoria set-up, with Jon Holland sometimes getting the nod. But in the games he’s played it has looked like he’s been flayed around the park, but he has still been handy. He took a six-wicket haul early on and back-to-back four-wicket hauls at the back end of this season.

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Ahmed could be handy in the UAE as he might know the conditions, and Pakistan may not have faced too many leg-spinners who actually turn the ball.

Stephen O’Keefe
The unknown man. Many, including myself, have been calling for his selection in the Test and ODI arena, but has not been seen in Aussie colours since 2010.

O’Keefe has been a standout spinner in the Sheffield Shield this season, topping the wickets list and also having the lowest average and one of the lowest economy rates. An 11-wicket haul against South Australia must make the selectors take another look at him – that’s a very handy return for a left-arm spinner.

Australian selectors seem to ignore him time and time again, but he could be the man to either back up Lyon as the second spinner or even lead the spin attack if Lyon continues to look unsettled against attacking batsman and lack his own attacking nous.

As a bonus, he’s handy with the blade.

Xavier Doherty
Doherty has been tried too many times. He has the ability to be a very good limited-overs bowler, but just doesn’t have what it takes to be a good five-day bowler.

Doherty was tried (ahead of Lyon) in the spin-friendly conditions of India last year and failed, taking no wickets. A five-for and a four-wicket haul in the Shield this season might, unfortunately, get him another look-in for the tour.

Ashton Agar
More of a batsman than a spinner if we’re honest. He was blooded young in the Ashes series in England as the No. 1 spinner (again ahead of Lyon), and showed promise with the bat. Go figure.

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This summer, though, has not been promising for the 20-year old, taking minimal wickets with his left-arm orthodox while hitting some handy runs. Perhaps he has a better chance of being an all-rounder for Australia in the future.

Cameron Boyce
This summer has been his best by far, with 25 wickets at 41. Boyce took his career best figures of 7-68 in the first round to very nearly clinch victory for Queensland down in Adelaide.

Although he does leak runs at times, he also has the ability to tie up an end, as shown in the BBL for the Hurricanes.

He takes wickets for his state and has edged out former Test spinner Nathan Hauritz for the state’s main role. Again, he could be handy against Pakistan as he turns the ball a fair way.

James Muirhead and Adam Zampa
Both are having the best summers of their short careers, with Muirhead taking wickets for the PM’s XI, Melbourne Stars and Australia in the T20s, while Zampa has found a place as back-up to South Australia captain Johan Botha.

Both are probably future prospects at the moment, but you never know with Aussie selectors. And speaking of Botha, is he a citizen of Australia? Does anyone know? He could be handy in Australia’s T20 and ODI side. (This could be a joke.)

Also a chance is Glenn Maxwell. (Not a joke.)

But it all come down to who the selectors believe in. And if I had to do their job (one of the hardest in sport), I would take Lyon, O’Keefe and Boyce (in a development role) to the UAE.

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