Mitchell Swepson to make Test debut for Australia against Pakistan

Show caption Australia’s Mitchell Swepson after receiving test debut cap 464 on the first day of the second test between Pakistan and Australia in Karachi. Photograph: Fareed Khan/AP Cricket Mitchell Swepson to make Test debut for Australia against Pakistan Tweaker gets nod with Karachi pitch expected to favour spin

Josh Hazlewood makes way after quicks failed in opening match Australian Associated Press Fri 11 Mar 2022 00.02 GMT Share on Facebook

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Australia captain Pat Cummins won the toss and elected to bat in the second Test against Pakistan, as Mitchell Swepson, a legspinner protege of Shane Warne, made his Test debut a week after the death of the cricket legend.

Australia openers Usman Khawaja and David Warner made a fast start to the innings to reach 0-82 from 18 overs before Warner got a peach of a delivery outside off stump from paceman Faheem Ashraf and was caught behind by Mohammad Rizwan for 36. Shortly afterwards, Khawaja, the Pakistan-born 35-year-old, brought up his 16th Test fifty from 70 balls (seven fours and one six). Marnus Labuschagne ran himself out for a nine-ball 0 after a direct hit by Sajid Khan helped Pakistan hit back and make it 2-91.

Australia went to lunch at 2-100. After the break, the experienced pair took the total to 2-154 from 40 overs with Khawaja (80*) closing in on the fairytale 11th career Test century he fell agonisingly short of in the first Test when he was dismissed reverse sweeping for 97. Smith (32* from 65 balls with three fours) also looked well set.

Swepson is the first legspinner to debut for Australia’s men’s team in 13 years and will replace paceman Josh Hazlewood in the team for the Test in Karachi after the drawn series-opener finished in the pall of Warne’s death. He becomes Australian test player #464 and was presented with his baggy green cap by teammate Usman Khawaja.

“It’s quite special that someone like Mitchell Swepson is going to debut tomorrow as a legspinner who grew up trying to replicate Warney,” Cummins said on Friday.

The 28-year-old Swepson, who has been around Australia’s Test squad since 2017, was tutored by Warne, who died from a heart attack at a Thailand resort last Saturday morning, Australian time.

Warne’s death came less than 24 hours after another Australian cricket great, Rod Marsh, passed away from a heart attack.

“Everyone is going OK … everyone is still in disbelief,” Cummins said. “But they have shared a lot of stories, especially of Warney who was the hero to a lot of our players growing up.

“Everyone is getting around each other … these kind of moments give everyone some clarity and perspective. The way he [Warne] played was a pretty good blueprint for every player that wants to be part of Test wins. If anything, a few of those stories have hit home and invigorated a lot of the players.”

Cummins says the likelihood of the Karachi pitch breaking up presented the perfect opportunity to blood Swepson as a spin partner to frontline tweaker Nathan Lyon.

“He has spent a lot of time running drinks over the last couple of years and is absolutely ready,” he said. “The wicket here looks a little bit drier, historically it’s a bit friendlier for the spinners.

“We think particularly a wrist spinner of Swepos’ quality gives us … the best opportunity to take 20 wickets [in the Test].”

Cummins described Swepson, who has taken 154 wickets at an average of 34.55 from his 51 first-class games, as among the hardest workers he had seen.

“The first thing about a spin bowler, especially a wrist spin bowler, is to become really good you have got to work hard,” he said. “And Swepo bowls for longer than just about anyone else in the nets and he has done for as long as I have been on tour with him.

“He is just a really good presence, really positive, a hard worker, good fun to be around and in terms of his cricket, just high quality.”

The Australians travelled to Karachi after taking just four Pakistani wickets in a mundane draw on a lifeless pitch in Rawalpindi in the series-opener.

The ICC has rated the Pindi pitch as below average amid Pakistan’s admission that it doctored that strip to blunt Australia’s renowned fast bowlers.

“For a long time it has been a lot of our strengths, Test sides, to be able to have tall fast bowlers,” Cummins said. “So I don’t blame anywhere that they try and produce conditions that might nullify the opposition.

“If anything, I found it a real positive that they went away from a wicket that they would traditionally play there in Rawalpindi.”