Agar frontrunner to end five years in Test wilderness

    Selectors will meet on Thursday night and are set to choose between left-armer Agar and Victorian rookie Todd Murphy as their SCG spin addition to be announced on Friday.Pace bowler and handy bat Michael Neser and young all-rounder Aaron Hardie are also in contention for call-ups to the squad as replacements for Mitchell Starc and Cameron Green.Australia are big fans of off-spinner Murphy, but working against the 22-year-old’s chances of a squad call-up may be the question of whether it’s logical to pick him in the same XI as Nathan Lyon, particularly when there’s another part-time offie in Travis Head already in the team.Not only does Agar spin it the other way as a left-arm orthodox, but he is also capable of batting at No. 7, which could be an important factor with all-rounder Green out of action with his broken finger.If Australia picks a second spinner in Sydney, who should play? It’s not guaranteed that Australia will play a second spinner in its XI in any case.But SCG curator Adam Lewis has gently encouraged Pat Cummins’ that the deck he has prepared for next week would warrant the hosts picking a No. 1 slow bowler for the first time since Steve O’Keefe partnered Nathan Lyon in Sydney against Pakistan in 2017.Australian captain Pat Cummins admits the Sydney team might be picked with one eye on the pitch and the other on February’s tour of India.“Yeah, I think it’ a mix,” Cummins said.“You know, it’s a pretty good lead-in in terms of, it’s probably going to be the wicket in Australia that closest resembles India even if it doesn’t spin big. “It might give us a chance to have a look at one or two players that will be on the Indian tour ahead of that.“But the first priority is of course to win the Test match.”Agar has only played four Tests since his extraordinary debut as an 19-year-old at Trent Bridge on the 2013 Ashes made him an instant household name as the country stayed up to watch his remarkable 98.Those same batting skills he showed as a No. 11 could again come to the fore nearly 10 years later if selectors are thinking about promoting wicketkeeper Alex Carey to No. 6 and replacing Green with a bowling all-rounder, rather than a like-for-like batting all-rounder like Hardie.In that scenario, Agar or Queenslander Michael Neser both have first-class records which prove they’re capable of batting at No. 7 in Test cricket.There would be a temptation for Australia to use this as an opportunity to blood young gun Murphy, who they see a big future in and who Lyon has anointed behind the scenes as the real deal.But looking ahead to the Indian tour that immediately follows the Sydney Test and the reality is Australia and other international cricket teams have shown over recent years a penchant for picking left-arm spinners in the subcontinent.In fact, Australia would have picked Agar in Sri Lanka earlier this year over leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson, if it wasn’t for Agar breaking down with a side strain during the preceding one-day matches.Unless selectors have changed their theory, Agar could be the most likely man to partner Lyon for the first Test on the tour of India in Nagpur starting in early February and if that is the case, it would make sense to pick Agar in the Sydney Test squad in the interest of continuity.The fact the choice for Sydney appears to be between Agar and Murphy is a blow to Queenslander Swepson who has fallen back in the spin pecking order from 12 months ago.Agar’s four Test matches have come in England in 2013 and Bangladesh in 2017, so it has now been more than five years’ since he last played Test cricket for his country.In that time, the West Australian has come a long way as a white ball bowler and feels he is as well-equipped as he’s ever been aged 29 to finally thrive with the ball at Test level.

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