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 ability 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.”
Qantas Tour of Sri Lanka, 2022
June 7: Australia won first T20 by 10 wickets
June 8: Australia won second T20 by three wickets
June 11: Sri Lanka won third T20 by four wickets
Sri Lanka ODI squad: Dasun Shanaka (c), Pathum Nissanka, Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis, Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Dinesh Chandimal, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Niroshan Dickwella, Wanindu Hasaranga, Chamika Karunaratne, Dushmantha Menesh Chameera, Asitha Thus, Fernando, Ramandi thus, Fernando, Theekshana, Praveen Jayawickrama, Jeffrey Vandersay, Lahiru Madushanka, Dunith Wellalage, Pramod Madushan
Australia ODI squad: Aaron Finch (c), Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Matt Kuhnemann, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc , Mitchell Swepson, David Warner
June 14: Australia won first ODI by two wickets (DLS)
June 16: Sri Lanka won second ODI by 26 runs (DLS)
June 19: Sri Lanka won third ODI by six wickets
June 21: Sri Lanka won fourth ODI by four runs
June 24: Fifth ODI, Colombo, 7pm AEST
Sri Lanka Test squad (provisional): Dimuth Karunaratne (c), Pathum Nissanka, Kamil Mishara, Oshada Fernando, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Dhananjaya De Silva, Kamindu Mendis, Niroshan Dickwella, Dinesh Chandimal, Chamika Karunaratne, Ramesh Mendis, Mohamed Shiraz, Shiran Fernando, Dilshan Madruhanus Kumara, Kasun Rajitha, Vishwa Fernando, Asitha Fernando, Jeffrey Vandersay, Lakshitha Rasanjana, Praveen Jayawickrama, Lasith Embuldeniya, Suminda Lakshan
Australia Test squad: Pat Cummins (c), Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Usman Khawaja, Glenn Maxwell, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson , David Warner
June 29 – July 3: First Test, Galle, 2.30pm AEST
July 8-12: Second Test, Galle, 2.30pm AEST
All Sri Lanka v Australia international fixtures will be screened live on Fox Cricket and Kayo Sports
Australia A fixtures
Australia A squad: Scott Boland, Aaron Hardie, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Henry Hunt, Josh Inglis, Matthew Kuhnemann, Nic Maddinson, Nathan McAndrew, Todd Murphy, Jimmy Peirson, Josh Philippe, Matt Renshaw, Tanveer Sangha, Mark Steketee
Sri Lanka A one-day squad: Dhananjaya de Silva (c), Niroshan Dickwella, Lahiru Udara, Lasith Croospulle, Oshada Fernando, Pabasara Waduge, Kamindu Mendis, Ashen Bandara, Janitha Liyanage, Sahan Arachchi, Pulina Tharanga, Dunith Wellalage, Dananjaya Lakshan, Shiran not due Fernan to injury), Dilshan Madushanka, Pramod Madushan, Nishan Madushka, Ashen Daniel, Nisala Tharaka
June 8: Australia A won by seven wickets
June 10: Sri Lanka A won by four wickets
June 14-17: Australia A won by 68 runs
June 21-24: four-day match v Sri Lanka A, Hambantota