Travis Head is expected to overcome a hamstring injury and play in Australia’s series opener against Sri Lanka, leaving Glenn Maxwell’s Test comeback on ice.
Australia confirmed on Tuesday they planned to take a settled line-up into the Galle Test, with Mitchell Swepson retained as second spinner alongside Nathan Lyon.
The only caveat on the unchanged XI that beat Pakistan in March was Head’s hamstring, after he was hurt in the one-day series.
The South Australian was put through a fitness test on Tuesday after training on Sunday and Monday.
A team official confirmed the left-hander had trained well, with a decision on his availability not set to be confirmed until Wednesday morning.
Regardless, whoever bats at No.5 will play a crucial role in the way Australia attack the two-Test series.
Australia plan to attack Sri Lanka’s four spinners and prevent them from dictating play as well as get into a rhythm.
While Maxwell is known for his attacking game, Head also went at a strike rate of 86.02 in his man-of-the-series Ashes performance last summer.
“You saw in the Ashes series in Australia the way that Travis played to put the pressure back on the bowlers.”
“Even Marnus (Labuschagne) in the last Test in Hobart.
“I know as a bowler if a batter is out there fearless and they know their game and want to take it on, it can be tough.
“Whether it is Alex (Carey) in the middle, Greeny (Cameron Green), Travis or Maxi. Absolutely they have the right to do it their way.”
The importance of Australia’s spinners has also been made clear.
Sri Lanka will play three frontline spinners as well as allrounder Dhananjaya de Silva, leaving Kasun Rajitha to likely be the only quick.
Reverse swing is also expected to be more difficult to come by, with the square around the otherwise dry wicket well watered and making it less abrasive.
That in turn could make life more difficult for Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc, the latter taking 24 wickets in Australia’s nightmare 3-0 loss in Sri Lanka in 2016.
There was a thought Swepson could lose his spot to Ashton Agar but the left-arm orthodox spinner suffered a side strain, ruling him out of at least the first Test.
Jon Holland was also flown into the country last week, but his preparations were hampered by finger soreness out of the Australia A game and he was ultimately not considered.
Australia are however happy to put their faith in Swepson, who endured a tough debut series on flat Pakistan wickets with just two wickets at an average of 133.
“We’re really happy with Swepo. We think he is bowling beautifully and really ready for this one,” Cummins said.
“I think his role here might be slightly different as well.
“Pakistan we knew was going to be a slow grind and I thought he did his job despite not taking the wickets he would like.
“He was a really important cog in that bowling engine.”