Australian selectors have been urged to be ‘brave’ and pick just two front-line fast bowlers for the fourth Ash Test in the wake of Travis Head’s unavailability.
The Australians, entering the SCG test with an unassailable 3-0 series lead over England, will be forced to make at least one change after Cricket Australia confirmed that Head had tested positive for COVID-19 and would not be. available for selection.
The timing is not ideal for Head, who started the Ashes with a 152 hit at The Gabba before posting half a century in Test 2.
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“That 152 in the first test basically kept him at No. 5 for five years,” former leg player Kerry O’Keeffe told Fox Cricket on Friday night.
“He got a double century in an A-List game, he’s at the peak of his powers, he’s a lock on every Trial, and he’s not playing the next Trial here.”
Former Australian goalkeeper Brad Haddin said Head’s “obvious” replacement would be Usman Khawaja, who has been with the test team since the start of the Ashes series and is about to be selected at the XI.
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But Haddin nominated the fit all-rounder Mitch Marsh to replace Head, which would give the Australians another fast bowling option and subsequently open up the opportunity for them to select a second spinner at SCG.
“Then you would have two SUVs, two fast launchers and two spinners,” Haddin said.
“It is disappointing for Travis Head, but the Australian selectors, if they are brave, could try different combinations for this event.”
Queensland player Mitchell Swepson has been stuck behind first-choice modifier Nathan Lyon in recent years, with Australian selectors choosing Lyon with three renowned fast players and an all-rounder.
But with Australia poised to tour the subcontinent in the early stages of 2022, O’Keeffe said the fourth test was an ideal time to face Swepson and Lyon on the same team.
O’Keeffe said the bowling attack for Round 4 should be comprised of Swepson, Lyon, Marsh, Cameron Green, Mitchell Starc and skipper Pat Cummins.
“We have to find out about Mitch Swepson,” O’Keeffe said.
“Has it been in the pine for how many years? We have to know if he is number two because there are new rivals, like Matt Kuhnemann, orthodox left arm.
“We are going to the subcontinent. Who are you taking? Do you take the ‘dummy’ that needs to bounce or the ‘ortho’ of the left arm that is precise, like Steve O’Keefe, and succeed there?
“Mitch Swepson, we’ll know more about where he is at the end of the five-day trial.”
Haddin said he would also like to see Swepson, who has played seven T20I games, as Lyon’s teammate in a test.
“Nathan Lyon can take all the pressure, Swepson can come in and hit the tail and (do) what needs to be done,” he said.
“If he plays Nathan Lyon, he gives him a great development on his first test and the pressure is not 100% on him to do all the turns.
“I think it is a good time to choose it.”
Haddin also encouraged the selectors to keep Starc on the team while he is in excellent shape.
Starc is the leader in wicket takers in the Ashes series so far, claiming 14 scalps at 19.6.
“I think Mitchell Starc has been outstanding,” Haddin said. “He’s at a really good pace, so I’d be really surprised if he wanted to give up his spot. Has released outstanding
“I would like to see him continue. I think he’s in a very good space with his bowling alley ”.