Australia name XI for first Test against Pakistan
With the first Australia vs Pakistan Test to be played in Dubai from Sunday, skipper Tim Paine confirmed his side's starting XI.
As expected, three debutants have been named in the team. Matt Renshaw, who suffered a blow to his head in the practice match, was left out. Though match fit, coach Justin Langer had publicly voiced concerns over lack of game time for Renshaw. As such, young Queenslander Marnus Labuschagne replaces his statemate in the side.
It has been a swift rise to the top for Labuschagne, impressing one and all with his work ethic and demeanor. Coach Langer too was effusive in his praise for Labuschagne, saying that he was the sort of player who is the heartbeat of the team.
He was selected for this tour after putting up a decent show in the preceding Australia A tour of India. Interestingly, even in that series, he received his call-up as a replacement only after Renshaw was ruled out with an injury. "The decision was made that he just hadn't played enough cricket," Paine said on Saturday regarding the Renshaw-Labuschagne decision.
"Marnus has played quite a bit of cricket on the A tour and he's in really good form and he deserves a chance.
"(Renshaw) has had a bit of an unlucky run with injury, he missed a game in India (on the A tour) and then got hit on the head and couldn't bat in the (tour) game."
Labuschagne's fielding is a huge plus too, being an expert in the short-leg position.
Surprisingly though, Michael Neser, who played the 4-day practice match, and was widely tipped to make his debut, doesn't make the cut. The experienced Peter Siddle pips him to the starting XI. "We just think 'Sidds' has been playing quite a bit of cricket, he's in good form. We knew he was playing really good cricket in the lead-up," Paine said.
"We just thought we'd give 'Nes' a chance to play in that tour game to get some cricket into him.
"And with the conditions over here, we thought it was important he had a game under his belt in case we need him in the second game in case anything happens to any of our quicks in this game."
Aaron Finch and Travis Head are the other two debutants. Finch will open the batting along with Usman Khawaja. The rest of the team selects itself, with regulars Khawaja, the Marsh brothers, and Mitch Starc raring to go.
As for the spinning options, Jon Holland has been selected as the second spinner, ahead of all-rounder Ashton Agar. Nathan Lyon, the team's premier spinner, will look to continue his wicket-taking form from the tour game.
Australia Test squad: Tim Paine (c), Ashton Agar, Brendan Doggett, Aaron Finch, Travis Head, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Michael Neser, Matthew Renshaw, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc