Glenn Maxwell could make a shock return to Test cricket next week after the injury-plagued Australians added the white-ball star to their squad to face Sri Lanka.
With Travis Head in doubt and Ashton Agar all but ruled out of the Test series opener in Galle on Wednesday, Maxwell is in the mix to wear his Baggy Green for the first time in five years.
Head, who was named player of the men’s Ashes earlier this year, suffered a hamstring injury earlier this week in the ODI series while Agar is carrying a side strain and has identified the second Test (also in Galle) as an earliest possible return date.
Along with Maxwell, Mitch Marsh and Josh Inglis are the other options to take up Head’s No.5 berth if the left-hander does not regain fitness in time.
Jon Holland, Matthew Kuhnemann and Todd Murphy meanwhile will all remain in Sri Lanka “to assist the Test match preparations and to develop their experience in subcontinent conditions” though none of that spin-bowling trio have yet been added to the squad.
Maxwell’s recall is a show of faith in his capability against spin bowling given he has not played a first-class game in two years and eight months amid his significant limited-overs commitments.
All four of the 33-year-old’s Tests have come on the subcontinent and had previously said he understood why he initially missed selection for the Sri Lanka series.
“I know it’s specific to my skillset and the way I play slow bowling, especially in these conditions, that might have been something to sway (selectors),” Maxwell told cricket.com.au earlier this month.
“But I think the way they’ve shown faith in their current squad is brilliant.
“It’s nice that the door’s not closed but I also thought it was nice that they showed faith in that squad.”
All three of Holland, Kuhnemann and Murphy have played for Australia A on their concurrent tour of Sri Lanka, while Kuhnemann has been promoted to the ODI side for their last three games following the injury to Agar.
It would appear selectors are keeping their options open given the question marks over Agar’s precise return date and whether a finger spinner would be preferable to incumbent Mitchell Swepson’s leg-spin.
Australia seem certain to field at least two spinners on what they expect will be sharp-turning surfaces. Swepson partnered Nathan Lyon in Pakistan earlier this year but Holland or Kuhnemann could be in the mix if the tourists want a left-arm finger spinner.
At 21 and with just three first-class games under his belt, Murphy is younger and less experienced than the other two and the fact he turns the ball the same way to Lyon would appear to have him further back in calculations.
Maxwell and Head also both bowl handy right-arm off-spin.
Holland played the last of his four Tests in the UAE four years ago and was flown over as Kuhnemann’s replacement in the A squad after the Queenslander’s promotion to the ODI side.
The 35-year-old had a slow start in Hambantota in the ongoing four-day game against Sri Lanka A, going at nearly five-an-over in the first innings, before taking two second-innings scalps from 22 overs on Thursday.
Kuhnemann has meanwhile impressed white-ball captain Aaron Finch.
“The way he thinks through the game, the plans he’s got and the confidence in his own ability is really impressive,” Finch said of the 25-year-old who came within one boundary of pulling off a remarkable one-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the fourth ODI this week.
“I didn’t know he had a lap (shot) until the other day when he pulled it out with a few runs to win. He’s a lovely guy who tries his heart out, he’s brilliant in the field.
“With Queensland you don’t play on a huge amount of spinning wickets, so for him to continue to play on wickets that offer a bit of assistance, that will continue to seem him grow.”
June 29 – July 3: First Test, Galle, 2.30pm AEST
July 8-12: Second Test, Galle, 2.30pm AEST