Australia have added Ashton Agar to their squad for the fourth Test against India at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), beginning on the 6th January.
The inclusion of Agar will have been prompted by the historical reputation of the SCG pitch as a spin-friendly venue, which generally encourages sides to enter the Test with two front-line spinners.
On this occasion Agar, if selected, will partner Nathan Lyon as the Aussies look to finish off the Indian Test series in impressive fashion. In the first three Tests, Lyon has been operating as Australia’s lone spin bowler but has done so impressively. However, his work load is sure to increase hugely in Sydney and therefore support will be required in order to share the burden.
Agar rose to prominence back in 2013 when he was thrust into the Ashes tour in England. However, it was his batting, not his bowling, that stood out.
On his Test debut at Trent Bridge, as a then 19-year-old, Agar hit 98, the highest score from a number eleven in Test match history. His stand of 163 with the late Phillip Hughes was also a record for the tenth wicket in Tests.
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That innings was a joy to behold and although he was an Australian batting in England there were many Englishman who felt the disappointment when Agar perished tantalisingly close to his century.
Now the 21-year-old is looking to add to the two Test caps received on that tour of England and make his name as a spin-bowler on the international stage.
Agar is currently playing for Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash League and has impressed in this format of the game. However, his early season form overall has not been great.
In the Sheffield Shield, Agar has taken only seven wickets at an average of 45.14 and his career stats of 62 wickets at an average of 44.00 hardly stand out either. However, his left-arm spin option could be a good variation for the Australian attack in Sydney.
Agar’s selection, for me, highlights the lack of spin bowling options currently in Australia. Australia, admittedly, do have Steve O’Keefe, who is currently unavailable due to a calf injury, as perhaps the ideal partner for Nathan Lyon.
O’Keefe made his own debut back in October when Australia played Pakistan in Dubai and, if fit, would have been the more obvious choice for the Australian selectors. Australia though are not the only team around the World with a lack of quality spin bowling options, as England supporters will no doubt agree with.
So, if Agar does not make the final eleven then I would expect stand-in captain Steve Smith to bowl himself quite a bit during the Test, even though he may be reluctant to do so. Surely any spinner would be keen to bowl on one of the most spin-friendly pitches in World cricket and, if this is Agar’s Test comeback, then what better place to re-start his career?
Australia head into the fourth Test having already sealed the series after they were victorious in the first two Test matches and then drew the third Test in Melbourne. India themselves will have to start life without MS Dhoni, who announced his immediate retirement from Test cricket after the third Test.
Australia’s 14-man squad for the fourth Test:
David Warner, Chris Rogers, Shane Watson, Steve Smith (capt), Shaun Marsh, Joe Burns, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle, Ashton Agar