Nathan Lyon’s desire to be a three-format performer for Australia is expected to be put on hold in New Zealand next month with national selectors favouring a red-ball warm-up for their spinner before the two-match Test series rather than an extended run in the one-day side.
A 14-man ODI squad will be announced on Monday for three matches against the Black Caps across the ditch, a series that for some of Steve Smith’s Test side will serve as their only preparation in New Zealand before the first Test begins in Wellington on February 12.
While Smith, David Warner, Mitchell Marsh and Josh Hazlewood are set to feature in the one-day team, in an unorthodox lead-in Australia’s Test squad will be spread as far away as Adelaide only a week before the series starts. Among them is Lyon, who is expected to turn out for NSW in their historic Sheffield Shield outing against Western Australia in the South Island town of Lincoln. Snubbed repeatedly from Australia’s limited-overs sides despite being the country’s best spinner, Lyon was finally called up to the one-day team again for the final two matches of the series against India.
However, with Australia having used only all-rounder Glenn Maxwell as a spinner on their last ODI visit to New Zealand — the dramatic World Cup pool match defeat to the Black Caps at Eden Park last year — there is an opportunity to hand Lyon a warm-up match with the red ball in foreign conditions.
That shield match between the Blues and Warriors also looms as a pre-series hit-out for wicketkeeper Peter Nevill despite increasing pressure on Australian limited-overs gloveman Matthew Wade ahead of the World Twenty20 in March.
With the country’s most in-form player, Usman Khawaja, now demanding selection for Australia across three formats, selectors also had to consider how to fit him into the ODI set-up. One option was to start Shaun Marsh, the Test squad’s back-up batsman, in that four-day match for WA rather than remain with the one-day side.
Shield matches in Melbourne between Victoria and Tasmania, and in Adelaide between South Australia and Queensland, have also been earmarked as lead-ins for Test squad members. Those matches, like the one in Lincoln, start on February 3, clashing with the ODI series that gets under way on the same day in Auckland.
It is a preparation that Australian officials hope will be adequate but one that promises to be scrutinised heavily should the team under-perform in the Tests having not had the traditional tour match to acclimatise as a team.
While the announcement of the ODI squad on Monday is unlikely to cause much of a stir, there is another team selection on the horizon that is sure to be hotly debated.
After the starring performances of Khawaja, Chris Lynn and Travis Head in the Big Bash there are as many as 22 players in contention for the 15-man World T20 squad, with further auditions to be made in Australia’s three-game T20 series against India.
“Hopefully we can get everyone one or two games at least,” acting Australian head coach Michael Di Venuto said. “Obviously there is a big carrot at the end of this with the World T20 team being picked and you can only pick 15 people.”
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