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Numbers suggest pace will play an important part but Andrew McDonald is ready to adapt

Usman Khawaja is set to retain the opening spot in Australia’s Test XI on return to the country of his birth, but there is the prospect of some flexible thinking for the other selections against Pakistan.
Australia’s senior team has not toured the country since 1998, and there have only been five Tests staged in Pakistan since the game returned in 2019, so data is limited while there are no warm-up matches ahead of the series. There is a reasonable chance that the balance of Australia’s Test side remains the same as in the recent Ashes, with three quicks and a spinner alongside Cameron Green – pace has averaged 29.61 and spin 39.41 in those five matches since 2019 – but interim head coach Andrew McDonald is confident the squad will have the ability to adapt.

“We are taking some educated guesses based upon what we’ve seen in recent times,” he said. “Looking at the PSL, looking at the squares…it’s at the back end of their season. Our preparation takes on a greater range and probably less specific than what we’d do if we knew exactly what we were getting.

“We are covering all bases, from turning wickets to wickets with grass on – they have a sensational pace attack, so we’ll be tested with that – there’s many ways that they can play it and they are in control of their own conditions. We feel as though the squad is balanced with enough options for whatever the case may be.”

One of the options that could come into play is Green playing as a third pace bowler if a second frontline spinner is selected, with his performances against England – he claimed 13 wickets at 15.76 – giving confidence that he could take on the role both from a wicket-taking and workload capacity.

McDonald also mentioned the presence of Mitchell Marsh in the squad as another way Australia could give themselves extra pace resources should additional spin be selected.

“If it did go that way, Cameron Green would bowl a lot more overs in the first innings than potentially what he normally would, but over the course of a game, the spinners would probably pick up a lot more of the work in the second innings. So it would probably level out to be similar loads,” McDonald said. “We are cautious it’s a long-term journey for Cameron, but what he’s been able to deliver has been second to none so far, so we are excited about the fact that he could do that role. Then you’ve got other options in terms of Mitch Marsh, [could] play two allrounders, so we’ve got great flexibility.”

One position that is unlikely to be debated ahead of the first Test is the presence of Khawaja as David Warner‘s opening partner. He took the job for the final Test against England in Hobart after his twin hundreds in Sydney made an irresistible case for him to be retained.
That led to the dropping of Marcus Harris just two matches after he had made the highest score of the Melbourne Test with 76. Harris will head to Pakistan with runs under his belt after making 55, 5 and 91 in the Sheffield Shield alongside an unbeaten 102 in the Marsh Cup.

Harris and Marsh will likely be the spare batters on the tour should injury or Covid strike any of the incumbents, and McDonald believed Harris would be able to take on a variety of positions.

“Usman you would say is a fair chance to start in the first Test match after what he did during this summer,” McDonald said. “But we’ve got some options, some competition for spots, and that’s always healthy.

“We know what [Harris] can do. Can he fit into the middle order if something were to go awry there? That’s a potential as well. If he was to be called upon, or he were to start, through whatever reason, we feel as though you could do a job. No doubt about that.”

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo



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