Sports

Leg spin is the missing link for the men


While Nathan Lyon’s career as the “Goat” has made him a reliable member of the team for a decade, off spinners have never been ones to make things happen to the same degree as leggies.
Lyon’s service in Rawalpindi was respectable and persistent. Had Alex Carey taken two difficult chances and Pat Cummins gone to DRS for another, he might easily have had three or four victims rather than one.

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The open-ended apprenticeship of Swepson, however, suggests he is still being held to standards Warne himself was never asked to reach before he was picked. Consistent questions abound in the commentariat about whether at 28 and with more than 150 first-class wickets Swepson is “ready”.

In domestic ranks, Tanveer Sangha is bowling with sharp spin and rare guile for NSW at the age of 20. Lloyd Pope is plugging away for lowly South Australia, while Tom O’Connell and Will Parker sit at the fringe for Victoria. Others such as Cameron Boyce, Cullen Bailey and James Muirhead have ventured to the edge of international careers but no further.

There is a significant contrast here with the women’s program, which has championed the employment of wrist spin as an important and full-time element of the Australian lineup. Kristen Beams has been followed by Georgia Wareham, Amanda Wellington and now King, all competing for a spot that has been kept much more open than the men’s equivalent.

It is not as though Australia’s leaders – Meg Lanning, coach Matthew Mott and selection chair Shawn Flegler – have thrown out economy, discipline and careful planning at the altar of a leg spinner’s gambling instinct either. Wareham and King have been preferred to Wellington because of their greater accuracy and subtle changes of pace, even if the South Australian can spin it further.

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King’s intervention in a chase England were, to that point, looking likely to succeed in showed the leg spinner’s ability to turn a game. And in Rawalpindi, Labuschagne extracted sharper spin than Lyon on a pitch that was starting to deteriorate as the second day of Pakistan’s outsized innings dragged on.

Without a full-time wrist spinner, Cummins’ men were consigned to the equivalent task facing Pakistan after two days of the Peshawar Test match dominated by Mark Taylor’s 334 in 1998: bat for the next two to make the game safe. In murky light, Usman Khawaja and David Warner got through one over of finger spin before the close.

They will need to do their best to keep the series at 0-0 going to Karachi where, yet again, Australia will have to decide whether it is finally time to throw the ball to a leg spinner. Unfathomably, Warne will not be around to see it.



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