Monday, 29 November 2021

We eye clean sweep against Pakistan: Smith

MELBOURNE: Steve Smith’s sole aim will be to keep Australia in the winning habit when they take on Pakistan in the third Test. The recall of Steve O’Keefe for a twin-spin attack and inclusion of debutant batting all-rounder Hilton Cartwright gives Australia the look of a team getting an early start on preparations for a tour of the sub-continent. Captain Smith, however, is well aware that little more than a month ago Australian cricket was in crisis after the home series loss to South Africa and his sights are firmly on victory and securing a 3-0 triumph over Pakistan. “The selectors probably have an eye on India and the guys that are a possibility to be there,” Smith told reporters on Monday. “(But) you can’t think too far ahead. The conditions are completely different, it’s a different kind of spin that you get out here compared to India. “We’re just focused on this Test match at the moment, hopefully we can have a clean sweep.” Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq told reporters on Monday, “You have to fight as a sportsman and that’s important for me also. “Everyone, from the support staff to the players are up for that, so I’m also up. I need to play at my best.” O’Keefe will replace pace bowler Jackson Bird.

The 32-year-old edged out fellow left-arm spinner Ashton Agar, who had also been recalled to the squad, as the second slow-bowling option behind Lyon for the SCG Test, which has typically produced slow, turning wickets. “I thought (Bird) bowled particularly well in Melbourne but, look, conditions sometimes change the team,” Smith said. “So, yeah, we’ve gone with two spinners on this occasion and it’s unlucky for Jackson. I thought he did bowl very well last week and he continues to improve.” Smith said 24-year-old batting all-rounder Cartwright had improved his bowling considerably over the last year and therefore would be used to ease the workload of frontline quicks Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood. Cartwright, who has a batting average close to 45 in first class cricket, can also bowl medium pace and replaces Nic Maddinson in the side. “I remember facing him a little while ago and I think since then he’s probably gained 10kph and got a lot more consistent with his areas,” Smith said. “It just adds a little bit to the bowling stocks, and he deserves an opportunity to play at number six. I guess how much we’ll use him will depend on how the game goes.” Head groundsman Tom Parker has promised a bit of traditional SCG turn which may also provide fitting conditions for Pakistan leg-spinner Yasir Shah to show the full range of his powers.

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