18/04/2024

Mitch Swepson is the favourite to replace Nathan Lyon as Australia's spinner when the time comes (Images: Cricket Australia/Cricket NSW)

As long as the pitch suits two spinners, Nathan Lyon would love to finally bowl in tandem at Test level with Mitchell Swepson at the SCG.

It wouldn’t be an Australian summer without calls for a second spinner to play the SCG Test match. Apart from the fireworks, it practically symbolises the beginning of a new year.

Whether it be Stuart MacGill, Steve O’Keefe, or now Mitchell Swepson, come the Pink Test it is guaranteed that fans, media and ex-players alike will be calling for them to partner the team’s number one spin bowler.

Despite the notion that the SCG lends itself to a dual spin set up, statistics from the last 10 years of Sydney Tests tell a different tale, a sentiment that Nathan Lyon himself agrees with.

“On average the spin hasn’t been there [at the SCG] over the last five years to be honest with you,” he told media on Sunday.

The Gabba is currently the only ground with a higher average for Australian spin bowlers since Lyon debuted.

This is likely the reason why we have only seen a dual spin bowling lineup deployed twice by the Australians at the SCG in the last 15 years, when O’Keefe was used in tandem with Lyon during the mid 2010s.

Unlike in the past there may actually be a convincing argument for Swepson’s inclusion this year, something which Lyon admits he would fully support if the selectors made that decision.

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The emergence of Cameron Green as a reliable wicket taker has certainly done the case for Swepson’s inclusion no harm, with selectors now confident that he can act as a capable third seamer in a Test squad.

Over his six innings this series, the West Australian all-rounder has already picked up seven wickets at an average of just 11, and has shown his capability to bowl long spells economically.

The inclusion of Mitchell Marsh in the squad would also add another fast bowler to the mix, that being if he was selected over Usman Khawaja to bat fifth in the order.

The context of the series so far also plays into the narrative of Swepson getting his debut. With the Ashes already retained after the Australians won the Boxing Day Test, many have called for the home side to look to the future.

Over the next 12 months the Australians will be playing Test series in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India.

It is highly likely that Swepson will get his debut in one of these games, however the question must be asked as to whether the Australian selectors would rather give him his first Test in an Ashes match on home soil where the series is decided, or during a tour of the subcontinent.   

Despite these calls to look to the future, Lyon is still adamant that the most important thing right now is getting a 5-0 Ashes series win.

“I’m pretty keen to win 5-0, there is no doubt about that,” Lyon said.

“If the conditions suit then we pick our best team for those conditions, whether that is two or three spinners we pick our best team to go out and win that test match.”

Whilst feeling that it should not be a forced decision, Lyon is keen to play some matches with a fellow spinner. He has not done this at Test level since 2018, when he partnered Jon Holland in a match against Pakistan.

“I love bowling in partnerships with spinners for sure,” he said.

“I’ve done it a lot in subcontinent conditions and if the opportunity comes to play two spinners I know we will really enjoy bowling together in partnership.”

The New South Welshman had high praise for Swepson, having watched his career flourish over the last few years first hand in both Shield cricket and the Australian set up.

“I think Sweppo [Swepson] has been developing really well, I said in a media interview last night that for me he has been Queensland’s best player for a number of years now,” Lyon said.

“He has been around the group for a long time now and no doubt when he gets the opportunity, he will take it and run.”

All questions surrounding selection will be answered by Tuesday evening when the Australian match day XI will likely be announced, with the first ball of the fourth Ashes Test to be bowled at 10:30am on Wednesday, January 5.

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