‘Spin hasn’t been there’: Lyon cautions against a Swepson SCG debut

Nathan Lyon is ready to start a productive spin partnership with would-be debutant Mitchell Swepson at the SCG, but an unhelpful pitch may force the duo to wait until March’s tour of Pakistan.

Australia, hunting a 4-0 series lead over England after retaining the Ashes urn at the MCG, have several selection quandaries to resolve.

Josh Hazlewood is increasingly bullish about his prospects of returning from a side strain after sitting out resounding wins in Adelaide and Melbourne.

The expected availability of fellow paceman Jhye Richardson, who has recovered from a minor leg injury, looms as another blow to Scott Boland’s hopes of backing up after a man-of-the-match haul on debut.

Travis Head will be an enforced omission after testing positive to COVID-19, with Usman Khawaja set to be recalled for his first Test since 2019.

Head coach Justin Langer and chairman of selectors George Bailey have also been mulling whether legspinner Swepson should become Australia’s fourth debutant of this series.

The bold call would accelerate Swepson’s development ahead of a busy 15 months on the subcontinent, where Australia are slated to play Test series in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India.

Lyon was full of praise for Swepson, describing him as “Queensland’s best player for a number of years”.

But the most experienced member of Australia’s XI cautioned against looking ahead, rather than underfoot, regarding the selection dilemma.

Mitchell Swepson (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

“There’s no dead rubbers. Firstly, because of the Test championship,” Lyon said.

“But we also want to go 5-0 up.

“It’s very important that … we pick our best teams for whatever conditions suit.

“If that’s two spinners, three spinners, whatever it may be.”

The SCG no longer has a reputation for being a spinner’s paradise, while forecast rain is another counter-argument to Swepson’s elevation.

“I haven’t had a look at the wicket,” Lyon said.

“The spin hasn’t probably been there over the last five years.

“Every time we put stumps in the ground (at the SCG), it seems to bring the rain.

“Does it become a bit challenging for spinners? Yeah it can, if the ball gets wet, but we’re pretty lucky these days … the grounds drain pretty quickly.”

However, Australia’s most prolific offspinner believes it is a matter of when Swepson debuts rather than if.

Lyon, who now has 411 Test scalps, has been thoroughly impressed with the legspinner’s improvement since touring India together in 2017.

“When he gets his opportunity, no doubt he’ll take it and run,” he said.

“Our friendship is great already, but really excited about the opportunity to bowl in tandem with Swepo – whenever that might come.

“I love bowling in partnerships with spinners.”

Bailey has indicated his panel will back Hazlewood to play if the fast bowler is confident he is fully fit.

Hazlewood, who sweated it out during a session with Richardson on Saturday, is set to steam in at the SCG on Monday before making a call.

“He said he trained really well yesterday, at a decent intensity,” Lyon said.

“I know Josh and he seemed pretty confident.”