Swepson may struggle to break up winning formula
IF it ain't broke, don't fix it.
That was the sentiment Australian coach Justin Langer spoke with on New Year's Day, when mulling his side to play New Zealand in the third and final Test starting in Sydney on Friday.
Australia enters the final Test of the year looking to make it a series and, indeed, summer clean sweep after easily accounting for Pakistan 2-0, before wrapping up the Trans-Tasman Trophy on Sunday by claiming the Boxing Day Test over New Zealand by 247 runs.
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The second emphatic win over the Black Caps in three weeks and the prospect of a turning SCG wicket led to calls from the King of Spin, Shane Warne, to play Queensland leg-spinner Mitch Swepson either over Nathan Lyon or as a second specialist spinner.
But speaking to reporters following his side's training session on Wednesday, Langer didn't rule out the possibility of handing Swepson his debut but said it would be difficult to make changes to his side following their perfect summer of Test cricket.
"It's going to be hard to make changes," Langer said.
"That said, I think it's really important that we wait because we've seen it in the shield games, the groundsman's telling us he's expecting it to spin so we have to show that some respect as well.
"But the boys are playing so well. We've talked about keeping the same group together as much as possible.
"The fact that James Pattinson came in and bowled so well as a replacement for Josh Hazlewood, that's really heartening for our depth. We've still got Michael Neser, we've got Mitch Swepson here who's bowling very well. His improvement warrants for him to be here, but we'll wait and see over the next two days what the wicket looks like."
The Australian side was in a happy mood on Wednesday following their four-day demolition of the Black Caps on Sunday.
Steve Smith was his hungry self, spending a long time in the SCG nets. The batting sensation, who is without a century this summer, had assistant coach Sridharan Sriram testing him out with short pitched bowling from a left-arm angle as he attempts to combat Neil Wagner's short of the length bowling style, which has got him out four times in as many innings'.
The sight of Hazlewood - who was ruled out of the Boxing Day Test because of a hamstring suffered in the previous Perth Test - rolling the arm over made the mood even jollier.
Yet, Langer confirmed his big quick wouldn't come into consideration for the final Test of the summer but continue his comeback via the Big Bash before their three-match One Day series in India.
The big selection call Langer faces is whether to include 26-year-old leg break bowler Swepson, who has taken five wickets in three matches for the Heat in the Big Bash and in November showed his improvement by taking seven wickets in the match against Victoria.
But with gun batsman Marnus Labuschagne more than capable leg-spin and Travis Head's off-breaks, Langer admitted it would be harder for specialist slow bowler Swepson to break into the XI - even with Australia's next Test tour on the spin-friendly wickets of Bangladesh in the middle of the year.
"It's certainly an option. That's how we have to look at it. We're talking about finding another all-rounder in Australian cricket, well it might give as opportunity to bowl Marnus, bowl Travis Head a few overs, to find those extra overs we're looking for," Langer said.
"Every time Marnus gets the ball in his hand it's pretty exciting. He's working hard on getting his lines right, so he makes them play a bit more but he's an exciting prospect.
"I think the way he spins the ball. The more he can bowl in games then that's important, whether he's in white ball cricket or Sheffield Shield cricket or Test cricket, the more he can - like we've seen his development as a batsman - the more he can bowl, the more he will improve I think."
On Swepson, Langer said the leg-spinner's improved control was making him a tempting option.
"One of the great strengths of Nathan Lyon is that he not only takes wickets but he bowls very economically as well, which builds pressure and with the way our fast bowlers bowl, they build so much pressure on the opposition, Nathan Lyon does that," Langer said.
"Mitch Swepson over the last six months or so has worked really hard on that with Queensland. His bowling, the way it's coming out of his hand, he's getting nice shape, he's also keeping his economy rate down which keeps so much pressure on the opposition."
Meanwhile, New Zealand will be forced to make one change following quick Trent Boult's hand injury.
Former NSW slow bowler Will Somerville has been called into the squad.
While left-arm spinner Mitchel Santner played the opening two Tests of the summer, his lack of success could see the Black Caps call both Somerville and leg-spin bowler Todd Astle into the side as a twin-spin duo.