Josh Hazlewood returns to the Australian side and the spinner Ashton Agar will also feature for Australia in their forthcoming tour in Pakistan. It will mark the first time that Australia have played a Test match since the resignation of coach Justin Langer.
While security concerns raised doubts as to whether the tour would go ahead, a full-strength squad has been named.It marks the first time that Australia have visited Pakistan since 1998 and the first of the three-Test series begins on 4 March at Pawalpindi. The series will also be notable for the fact that it marks the first time that Australia has played away from home since the pandemic struck.
Not much has changed in the Australia squad since their 4-0 hammering of England in this summer’s Ashes. The full lineup of the 18-player Australia Test squad is:
Pat Cummins (c), Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, Steve Smith (vc), Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson and David Warner.
It promises to be a fascinating series with high stakes to play for in Pakistan. This is because Australia are just ahead of Pakistan in the ICC World Test Championship table. As such, the three Test matches in Rawalpindi, Karachi and Lahore will be critical for Australia’s aspirations.
Australia will be buoyed by the return of Hazlewood who was largely absent from the Ashes as a result of an injury to his side. Alongside the experience of the seamer, Australia has given a chance for Ashton Agar to play alongside Nathan Lyon and Mitchell Swepson in the spin bowling attack.
Obviously Australia will be counting on left-armer Mitchell Starc and the captain Pat Cummins to carry the weight of the bowling attack. But with the inclusion of Scott Boland and Michael Neser, it gives Australia plenty of options to try and break down the often-frustrating Pakistan batting line-up.
While the inclusion of Josh Inglis and Alex Cary as wicketkeepers was a pretty straight decision, there remain some questions over who will open the Australia batting alongside David Warner. There remains a doubt over the ability of Marcus Harris to perform at Test level, and the Pakistan tour could give Usman Khawaja the opportunity he needs to stake his claim for a regular opening spot.
Interestingly, Jhye Richardson chose to stay in Australia rather than play in Pakistan despite his inclusion in the Ashes squad. With New Zealand and England withdrawing their sides from tours of Pakistan in recent years, it was always up in the air as to whether Australia would visit the nation.
There wasn’t any international cricket in Pakistan played between 2009 and 2015 following an attack on the Sri Lanka team, but Australia’s commitment to the tour is hopefully a sign that things are getting back to normal.
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