By Ian Ransom
ADELAIDE (Reuters) – Australia will not field a second spinner in the third and final test against New Zealand in Adelaide, with backup Steve O’Keefe being packed off to play Sheffield Shield cricket.
The pink ball’s debut in the inaugural day-night test match raised expectations Australia might field a second spinner for the first time on home pitches in nearly a decade, after batsmen complained of difficulty making out the seam under floodlights.
However, captain Steven Smith said on Thursday that a green tinge on the Adelaide Oval pitch had convinced selectors to stick with three seamers and an all-rounder in tandem with regular spinner Nathan Lyon.
“Steve O’Keefe has been released to play Shield cricket and we’re still deciding on the bowlers,” Smith told reporters at the venue on Thursday.
“(A second spinner) was considered obviously as he was here to train with us.
“He’s done incredibly well with the pink ball and we thought he might have played a part but it’s not going to end up that way.
“We’re going to go in with three quicks and an all-rounder. There’s probably a little bit more grass than I anticipated to be on it so that added bit of grass probably swayed our decision.”
Australia, who lead the series 1-0, already retained the Trans-Tasman Trophy with the draw in Perth but both sides will be keen to etch their names into the record books as winners of the first day-night test.
Smith said selectors chief Rod Marsh would take another look at the pitch before making a call on Australia’s attack but Mitchell Starc is almost certain to lead the pace assault following the retirement of fellow left-armer Mitchell Johnson after the drawn second test in Perth.
Josh Hazlewood, Peter Siddle and the recalled James Pattinson will vie for the other two seamer positions.
Shaun Marsh, called up to replace injured batsman Usman Khawaja, will bat at five in the order, meaning Smith will promote himself into Khawaja’s spot at three.
Khawaja scored centuries in both the series opener in Brisbane and the second match in Perth in a brilliant return to the side after two years in the international wildnerness.
But Smith said Marsh, the older brother of all-rounder team mate Mitchell Marsh, could yet cement his place in the side despite his paltry return of 114 runs from his past three test matches against England and West Indies.
“He’s back in the Australian team and he’s done a terrific job batting at number five,” Smith added.
“I think he did that last summer here against India, so he’s got another opportunity, so hopefully he can take it with both hands.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)