Australia have added allrounder Marnus Labuschagne to their squad for the final Test against India in Sydney which they need to win to level the series, with captain Tim Paine admitting “a lot of things are on table” following the batting slump at the MCG.
Labuschagne made his debut in the UAE earlier this year and played both Tests against Pakistan where he showed some promise with bat and ball, making a top score of 43 alongside claiming seven wickets with his legspin.
However, a poor start to the Sheffield Shield cost him the chance of being part of the India series from the beginning and his first-class numbers for the season are an underwhelming average of 28.22 with the bat and 59.60 with the ball.
It is Labuschagne’s bowling as much as his batting which has brought him back into contention as Australia battle to balance their side amid the struggles of Mitchell Marsh, question marks over Aaron Finch as an opener and workload of the quick bowlers.
“I think there’ll be a lot of things on the table in the next day or two and I’ve got some thoughts on what I think but I think I’ll share that with JL [Justin Langer] and a few other guys before I share it here,” Paine said. “We’ve got the best group of players available to us at the moment and we’ll pick the best combination out of that group that we think will win this last Test.
“We’ll get up to Sydney and have a look at the conditions, I think we’re hearing it will spin quite a bit, so once we see that for ourselves we can try to think about the best combination to win that Test. From what I’m hearing it will be dry, spin quite a bit, a bit like the old SCG used to be.”
Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins had almost two days in the field as India piled up 7 for 443 and were then back out again by the final session of the third day after Australia folded for 151 in their first innings.
“Physically they’re all fine,” Paine said. “We’ll have a look at the conditions before we name our XI. There’s no problem with any of them at the moment.”
Mitchell Marsh performed a handy role with the ball in Melbourne, sending down 26 tight overs over the opening two days, but had an awful time with the bat as he twice fell trying to attack Ravinda Jadeja. It takes his Test run tally in his last five matches to 74 runs at 7.40.
“As we’ve said all along, we know Mitch at his best can offer a lot to Australian cricket,” Paine said. “We just need to make sure he’s at his best more often than not and like the rest of us the gap between his best and his worst gets smaller all the time.”
No one has been dropped from the squad named before the Melbourne Test which means Peter Handscomb, who was omitted in favour of Marsh, retains his place. Peter Siddle, who will play Big Bash for Adelaide Strikers on New Year’s Eve, remains the spare pace bowler.
Finch’s role as opener is also being hotly debated following a double failure at the MCG, and though he has been retained in the squad, his role in Sydney could range from the status quo, to dropping into the middle or being left out altogether.