If there is any shadow of doubt about Mitchell Starc’s fitness for the first Test, the Australian team need to give Lance Morris a chance to show he can cut it at Test level.
Morris spent the entire home summer last year getting accustomed to the Australian Test team set-up without being given a chance to send down his 150km/h thunderbolts.
It’s tough to get into an attack featuring three all-time greats in Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc, just ask Scott Boland and Michael Neser.
But the time has come for the “Wild Thing” to be unshackled, unleashed or whichever sporting cliche you prefer on home turf in Perth against Pakistan at Optus Stadium on December 14.
Morris appears to be a strong chance to make his debut after being named in Australia’s squad on Sunday for the First Test as Starc is likely to be unavailable due to an unspecified niggle, according to a Sydney Morning Herald report.
Australia’s bowling attack needs to be refreshed at some stage and as durable as the big three have been in recent years, the 30-something trio can’t last forever.
Jhye Richardson is the only paceman in the country with a Test wicket to their name who is younger than 30.
Morris has bagged 11 wickets at 25.54 for Western Australia in the Sheffield Shield recently, completing a successful comeback from a back injury which ruled him out of the Ashes tour to England.
The express pace bowler was part of the Australian squad throughout last year’s home summer but was unable to get a start in the star-studded line-up with Neser and Boland ahead of him in the pecking order.
Neser, 33, is making plenty of runs for Queensland but hasn’t been effective with the ball while Boland’s late-blooming career may wither over the next 12-24 months with the emergence of Morris and if Richardson can remain injury free.
At 25, Morris is in the sweet spot for a bowler of his pace – young enough to be able to bowl like the wind with enough miles in his legs to be able to withstand the rigours of long-form cricket at the highest level.
Mitchell Marsh has retained the all-rounder spot ahead of Western Australian teammate Cameron Green, who scored 96 in the Sheffield Shield draw with Queensland last week.
After smashing a ton in his Test comeback in the third Ashes Test, Marsh deserves a chance to prolong what is likely to be his last chance to be a regular member of the top six.
His bowling is a question mark – particularly his ability to get through long spells when needed to relieve the frontline seamers but that is unlikely to be a problem in the three home Tests against Pakistan and two “contests” with the West Indies.
Veteran opener David Warner has kept his spot for his planned three-match swansong at Test level, which is no surprise given the selectors’ reluctance to make the right call on ending his career early after a sustained period of diminishing returns in the red-ball arena.
Selection panel chair George Bailey said the nucleus of the team had “earnt the opportunity to start in our first home Test match” after winning the World Test Championship and retaining the Ashes in England during the winter months.
“As ever, there will be opportunities in the short to medium term to break into this squad and we look forward to seeing the continued strong performances from players who have been performing domestically, many of whom will get a tremendous opportunity in the PM’s XI fixture against Pakistan later this week,” Bailey said.
Nathan Lyon is returning as the spinner ahead of Todd Murphy after recovering from the calf tear which ended his Ashes campaign early.
Lyon is just five shy of becoming the eighth player in history to reach the 500-wicket milestone – the Optus Stadium pitch won’t be too helpful but you wouldn’t rule out Australia’s greatest off-spinner conjuring up the required scalps while filling his workhorse role of bowling into the Fremantle Doctor.
He can tie up an end with Marsh chipping in to allow Cummins to use Morris in short spurts of raw pace that will give the Pakistani batters plenty of sleepless nights before and during the Test.
Squad: Usman Khawaja, David Warner, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith (v-c), Travis Head, Mitchell Marsh, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins (c), Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Lance Morris, Scott Boland, Cameron Green, Mitchell Starc.