Mitch Swepson should be partner of spinner Nathan Lyon at SCG, says Steve O’Keefe

Lyon has played 10 games for the SCG since 2012, but is averaging 40.94 per ground, up from his Australian career average of 32.33. After scoring 10 wickets against New Zealand in 2019, their only two sets of five 10-test wickets in the SCG, Lyon posted figures of 2-201 against India earlier this year from 77 spills.

O’Keefe has taken seven wickets in two SCG events at 23.71 at his home track.

But the days when the SCG was a haven for fans of change and a haven for fans on the fifth day are long gone, and the Australian selectors will be well aware of that when they discuss whether Swepson should play.

Stephen O’Keefe bowls in the nets ahead of Australia’s Test against the West Indies in 2016. Credit:AP

“Nothing we’d love more than he had a chance, but it will depend on the conditions,” Bailey said.

From 1991 to 2000 in the SCG, Australian spinners averaged 31.73. From 2001 to 2010, that number was nearly identical to 31.65.

But in the last 11 calendar years (2011 to 2021), Australian spinners have taken 47 plots at 44.95 on the famous plot.

Meanwhile, the rise in averages extends to visiting bowlers as well. From 2001 to 2010, foreign spinners averaged 44.69, but in the period from 2011 to 2021, that number increased significantly to 56.28.

Since the turn of the century, Anil Kumble (20) has held the most wickets of any foreign bowler in the SCG, ahead of Danish Kaneria and Ravi Ashwin.

The same increase applies when analyzing the percentage of land captured by Australian spinners in the SCG. From 2000 to 2010, Australian spinners took 37 per cent of their team’s land in the SCG, compared with 26 per cent in the past 11 years.

In the Warne and MacGill era, spinners regularly took 50 per cent or more of Australia’s land in the SCG, particularly late in the game when large cracks began to open up.

“I believe [the reason for the increase in averages] it depends on different field conditions, ”O’Keefe said. “Now they want to leave more grass in the wicket, me square, so that the wicket block looks better on television, which has been adapted to fast bowling.”

O’Keefe believes that Swepson, who took 32 wickets at 23.4 in last year’s Sheffield Shield season, should play for SCG, meaning Australia would have to skip one from Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood or Scott Boland.

“I think he’s worked a lot,” O’Keefe said. “On the tours I went on, he was always there as an actor in the project. When you saw him play last year [in the Sheffield Shield] it went to another level. He wanted the ball in hand, he threw more consistently, throws big leg breaks and takes a lot of ground.

“When you think about the tours coming up, you want to give him playtime at some point. When you move on to these subcontinental tours, you won’t want to throw it in the fire. I think you will enjoy it.


“We used to talk about my shitty left arm breaks as the next best thing, but we actually have some genuine depth and real bowling pins, which has taken a bit of time. Nathan Lyon and Mitch Swepson are right at the top of the tree. “

Former Australia captain Mark Taylor has suggested casting Swepson is the way to go, with tours of the subcontinent on the horizon.

“They need to find a suitable replacement in the next few years for Nathan Lyon,” Taylor told Wide World of Sports. “Maybe that’s Mitch Swepson and maybe they’ll even give Swepson the next test.”

However, O’Keefe has a suspicion that SCG’s release may be a bit different this time.

“The last pitch for the Sheffield Shield game against Victoria was a perfect wicket and the best I’ve seen,” O’Keefe said. “I personally would leave thick grass and dry the gate. Thatched grass is the key. “

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