Cummins open to Agar, Swepson calls for first Test, urges hitters to ‘be brave’

Australia captain Pat Cummins is not ruling out a two-round bowling attack for the first Test against Pakistan but insists a full XI will only be named as late as possible.

Rain in Rawalpindi prevented the Aussies from making further close inspections of the pitch, which looks very batting friendly.

According to Cummins, team selectors need “another look at the wicket” to determine the bowling combination Australia take in their first overseas test in 30 months.

“We’ll have an idea, either later this arvo or tomorrow morning we’ll have an exact team,” Cummins told the media on Thursday afternoon (AEDT).

“Two spinners [or] quick three, we have a good idea of ​​what we want to do, but we don’t want to make the call too soon without knowing what the wicket is.

Australia have a fearsome pace contingent for the series, with Cummins joined by left-arm Mitchell Starc, an in-form Josh Hazlewood and Ashes hero Scott Boland among those vying for places in the squad.

However, Cummins isn’t ruling out the possibility of choosing two spinners if conditions are right, suggesting that the versatile Ashton Agar and the uncapped leg spinner Mitchell Swepson are “both excellent options.”

“I’d probably prefer to keep quiet,” Cummins said when pressed on his ideal bowling foursome.

“’Sweppo’ as a leg-spinner is a real luxury to have. He bowls fantastically, he’s ready to go.

“Ash Agar, he hasn’t played red ball much, but he’s been fantastic every time he’s played for Australia. He’s also grown a lot as a bowler over the last two years, so the either is absolutely ready for test cricket if given the chance.

The batting lineup is more complete, which should be the same as the Ashes’ fifth Test in Hobart, barring a shock recall for fly-half Marcus Harris or late injuries.

Cummins had a message for his drummers – be patient, but feel free to flip the switch if the time is right.

“Compared to, say, the Ashes series or the last 10 Test matches we’ve played, it could be a real drag,” he said.

“There might be times when the scoreboard is just two runs, and for our batting group, we just have to be ready to hit and hit and hit.

“There are certain stages where if you feel like it’s going to speed up, be brave enough to take those opportunities.

“All the basics of Test cricket remain the same – there’s nothing I’ve seen here to suggest it will be a totally different scenario.”

Cummins isn’t phased by early glimpses of the field suggesting the chosen bowling offense will only last a few days.

The fast bowling superstar maintains that his bowlers are good enough to exploit any minimal assistance offered by the surface.

“It looks like a good wicket, so I don’t think it’s going to seam or swing all over the place, but I think there will be enough there,” Cummins said.

“Bowling in the practice wickets next to the wicket, it’s been nice to bowl, so hopefully it’s about the same in the middle.

“I doubt there will be as much of a bounce or as fast as in Australia, it looks okay but I don’t think it will be a super quick wicket. Really unknown, to be honest; we’ll see how we go.

Babar Azam and Pat Cummins (Photo: Cricket Australia)

One benefit of a flatter pitch could be the lack of substantial spin, which has been Australia’s nemesis on sub-continental tours for a generation.

Left out of the squad, Pakistani batsman Yasir Shah has repeatedly routed visiting Australians on two recent tours to the United Arab Emirates, while the side have only won one Test in India since 2004.

“One of the unknowns about coming to play here in Pakistan is, obviously it’s in the subcontinent, but looking at this wicket, it’s quite a distance from the really thorny wickets that we might encounter, where on the morning of the day 1 it jumps out of the toe holes,” Cummins said of the pitch.

“When you come here you expect less bounce, probably less pace, reverse swing bowling might come into play a bit more. But we’ve been to courts on the subcontinent before and seen wickets really friendly.

“Looking at this one, I think it’s going to shoot but maybe not from day one like we’ve seen in the past. I think it’s going to be hard work at times, but that’s how you want it.

Cummins anticipates the tour, Australia’s first to Pakistan in 24 years, to be a career highlight, with packed houses expected throughout the three-test series – the first three days of the first test would have already been complete.

“All of the previous generation of Australian teams didn’t get to experience Pakistan so we feel really blessed and blessed to be the first team to be back here,” he said.

“This will be a tour at the end of our careers that we’ll look back on and think ‘damn, that was really special’.

“As far as anything, the way we are supported with the security presence, we will probably never experience something like this in our lifetime.

“A great life experience, really proud and happy to experience test cricket here. Hopefully there will be many more in the future.

“Test cricket is really special, even more so when it is played in front of a full house. With the way COVID has been for the past two years, we haven’t played a lot of sold out houses.

“[It’s] a great experience for us as cricketers.”

Although Pakistan are without fast bowling options Hasan Ali, Faheem Ashraf and Haris Rauf (the latter of whom had his Test debut chances wiped out by a positive COVID test), Cummins is wary of underestimating the home side , especially given the success Australia had with an equally inadequate bowling attack through the Ashes.

“International cricket, you have to have a team of players. I’m sure it will be a big loss, but it gives opportunities for other players to push themselves,” he said.

“I think you’ve seen that all summer in Australia; someone like Josh Hazlewood was missing, and we were able to bring in Scott Boland and debut and play fantastically. There is always another guy who can step in.

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