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Aussie quicks aim for seventh heaven as Test XI announced for Warner's finale while Pakistan leave out star duo

2nd January, 2024
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2nd January, 2024
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Pat Cummins has predicted Australia’s bowlers could go through the marathon seven-Test summer unchanged after picking the same XI for the SCG clash with Pakistan.

Cummins confirmed on Tuesday that Australia would stick with the same side for a third straight Test, with all players passed fit for the series finale.

It means Scott Boland will again be left on the sideline, while Cameron Green is the back-up allrounder behind Mitch Marsh.

Australia have a nine-day gap between the end of the Pakistan series and the first Test against West Indies in Adelaide. The Gabba Test quickly follows.

Two further Tests are scheduled in New Zealand in February and March, meaning quicks Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood will have some reprieve before heading across the Tasman.

“It’d be rare (if we could do that),” Cummins said. 

“Normally each summer there’s something that pops up. But all three of us are really fresh. 

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“Even the way this summer is spread out a bit more, there’s two Tests on, then a bit of a gap; then two Tests, then a bit of a gap; then New Zealand. 

“We’ll give it a chance. It’s all gone pretty smoothly so far.”

The prospect of the quartet playing the entire summer comes after a record-breaking week for the group.

Australia’s win over Pakistan at the MCG took the attack quartet to 16 Test wins when playing together, one clear of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie’s 15.

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 02: Bowlers Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon of of Australia walk onto the field at the start of play during day four of the Second Test match in the series between Australia and Pakistan at Adelaide Oval on December 02, 2019 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe - CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

The wins have come in 27 matches, to their predecessors’ 22.

Hazlewood could add further history to the summer in coming weeks, with the seamer 16 wickets away from joining his three teammates in Australia’s top-10 wicket-takers of all time.

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“It’s always a (bowling) collective,” coach Andrew McDonald said this week. 

“Pat’s a world-class performer … the left arm of Mitchell Starc, the consistency of Josh Hazlewood. Nathan Lyon on 500 Test wickets, being able to lock down an end.

“They complement each other and it’s a real sweet spot for us.”

Meanwhile, Pakistan have made the call to rest ace paceman Shaheen Shah Afridi and drop opening batter Imam-ul-Haq.

With little to play for other than World Test Championship points, Pakistan made the call to leave out their inspirational leader of the attack in Afridi.

That will allow Pakistan to bring in spinner Sajid Khan, with first-choice off-breaker Abrar Ahmed still nursing a leg injury.

Captain Shan Masood had earlier said the tourists were keen to play two spinners in Sydney.

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“We think that it might turn in Sydney. So we want to give ourselves the best possible opportunity to have the best players on the field,” Masood said.

“We’ve kept Abrar on the Australian tour. They have looked after him very well. His rehab process has been going very well. 

“We always had Sydney in mind (for him). 

“But we have to be absolutely sure he is close to 100 per cent fit … If not we’re taking a risk he doesn’t break down over there.”

Pakistan had been forced to rely on spinning allrounder Agha Salman, who has taken only one wicket from 51 overs and gone for 160 runs in the two Tests to date.

The call to axe Imam comes after the opener made scores of 62, 10, 10 and 12 on the tour so far.

In his place 21-year-old Saim Ayub will debut. 

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Mohammad Rizwan speaks with umpire Joel Wilson after being controversially given out caught behind off his glove.

Mohammad Rizwan speaks with umpire Joel Wilson after being controversially given out caught behind off his glove at the MCG. (Photo by Morgan Hancock – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

One other change is guaranteed after Pakistan warmed up without Abdullah Shafique in the slips on Tuesday and with Babar Azam introduced at first slip.

Shafique will play but has been banished from the cordon after his three drops in the opening two Tests.

Masood defended the delay in changing the cordon, with Shafique not ousted until the morning of day four in Melbourne.

“In a game your hands are tied because slips are very specialised,” Masood said. 

“A lot of fielding places in Test cricket are very specialised. We had four genuine quick bowlers, so it was hard to get them into the slips. 

“And then Abdullah Shafique has been a good slipsman for us and those are the guys that practise for hours every day.” 

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“He’s a brilliant slips fielder. He’s got age on his side. You’ll see him standing in the slips more often. 

“But I think if he doesn’t feel comfortable, Babar is a decent first slipper.”

Australia: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Mitch Marsh, Alex Carey, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins (capt), Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.

Pakistan: Abdullah Shafique, Saim Ayub, Shan Masood (c), Babar Azam, Saud Shakeel, Mohammad Rizwan, Salman Ali Agha, Sajid Khan, Hasan Ali, Mir Hamza, Aamir Jamal.

© AAP

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