Leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson will make his long-awaited Test debut for Australia as the tourists opted for two spinners for the second Test against Pakistan starting on Saturday. After a dreary draw on a flat Rawalpindi pitch in the first Test there is hope that Karachi will live up to its reputation of producing a result through spinners. The 28-year-old Swepson will become the first specialist leg-spinner to play a Test for Australia since Bryce McGain against South Africa in 2009. His inclusion is poignant because it comes a week after legendary Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne died of a suspected heart attack in Thailand.
Swepson will come in for fast bowler Josh Hazlewood in a twin spin attack alongside the experienced Nathan Lyon.
“He’s pumped and to be honest we’re all pumped for Swepo,” said Australian skipper Pat Cummins.
“It’s been a long time running drinks over the last couple of years, but he’s absolutely ready. He’s been a huge part of the squad, even though he hasn’t been playing.
“So we’re really excited to see him get a chance.”
Cummins acknowledged the Warne link.
“I think all spinners have a close affinity with Warnie and he inspired everyone,” said Cummins, who hopes the Karachi pitch will assist the spinners.
Pakistan beat South Africa by seven wickets in Karachi last year with spinners taking 18 of the 33 wickets to fall, with current Pakistan squad member Nauman Ali taking seven on debut.
“The wicket here is a little bit drier and historically a bit friendlier for the spinners, history shows the spin is probably more damaging here than the pace,” said Cummins.
Pakistan captain Babar Azam says his batsman will do their homework on the debutant Swepson.
“We have not seen him bowl much but will watch his videos and plan accordingly,” said Azam, who believes Pakistan were the dominant side in the first Test despite the draw.
Pakistan are likely to bring in frontline pacer Hasan Ali and all-rounder Faheem Ashraf — who both missed the first Test with injury — in place of Naseem Shah and Iftikhar Ahmed.
Ashraf tested positive for Covid on Wednesday but returned negative a day later to join the squad.
“This pitch looks sporting and will help spinners,” said Azam.
The third and final Test is in Lahore from March 21-25.
Australia are on their first tour of Pakistan since 1998, having previously refused to tour the country over security fears.
Australia XI: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey (wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins (c), Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Swepson