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Australia’s 15-man squad for their upcoming tour of the UAE has been announced, and one thing is patently clear: Justin Langer’s first Test team will be one of the weakest fielded by Australia in recent memory.
With Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft all serving suspensions following the infamous ball-tampering scandal earlier in the year, and pace duo Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood ruled out through injury, the available batting and bowling stocks are awfully thin.
Tim Paine will captain a side which is awfully low on both experience and Test runs – Paine (40.82) is one of only two squad members to average more than 40 in Test cricket, Usman Khawaja (42) being the other.
Shaun Marsh, Matt Renshaw and all-rounder Mitchell Marsh are the only other recognised batsmen with Test experience in the squad. Aaron Finch, Travis Head and bolter Marnus Labuschagne are in with a chance of making their five-day debuts against Pakistan, having all been picked in the touring party.
Finch has been in imperious limited-overs forms as of late, scoring 589 runs at 147 for Surrey in the Vitality Blast, England’s domestic T20 competition. However, his one County outing ended with scores of 43 and 32, and his first-class average sits at just 36.15.
That mark is almost identical to Head’s career average in the whites (36.09). But both batsmen have plenty of international experience in limited-overs cricket, having played 132 ODIs and 58 T20Is between them.
Queenslander Labuschagne is one of the biggest bolters in the squad, having beaten out Glenn Maxwell for the final batsman’s position on the back of some solid scores for Australia A. Labuschagne’s state teammate Joe Burns was also overlooked for selection.
The side’s attack will be led by regulars Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon, but there is precious little Test experience in the rest of the bowling contingent – with one notable exception.
Peter Siddle, who hasn’t played for Australia since South Africa’s tour of Australia in 2016, has earned a shock recall after some excellent performances in County Cricket. The Victorian quick took 37 wickets at the impressive average of 16 in seven games for Essex, and now has the chance to add to his 62 caps and 211 wickets for the Test side.
Siddle’s Victorian teammate Jon Holland is likely to play as a second spinner alongside Lyon. Left-armer Holland has played just the two red-ball games for Australia, both of which came on the ill-fated 2016 tour of Sri Lanka.
Uncapped duo Michael Neser and Brendan Doggett are the other two pacemen in the squad. Both are currently playing in Australia A’s second first-class game against India A in the subcontinent.
While Neser was always a chance of earning selection, the decision to pick Doggett comes as a massive surprise. The 24-year-old has played just eight first-class games, having made his debut for Queensland in the 2017-18 Sheffield Shield season, and has taken 31 wickets at 28.19.
There is no room for West Australian tearaway Jhye Richardson, even though the youngster toured with Australia in South Africa at the start of the year.
Ashton Agar has beaten out Mitchell Swepson to nab the final spinner’s position.
No vice-captain for the tour has been named yet – Tim Paine’s deputy must be approved by the Cricket Australia board before being confirmed – however a number of players, Mitch Marsh chief among them – are believed to be in the running for the position.
Tim Paine (c)