Noting the Proteas’ preferred format of four seamers, Australia have called up uncapped paceman Jhye Richardson for the four-Test tour starting in March.
At the age of 21, Richardson has played only five first-class matches, but took 17 wickets in four Sheffield Shield games for Western Australia before the start of the Big Bash League. It is a dream come true for the youngster, who made his ODI debut at the Gabba last Friday, taking 2-57 against England, for he has often stated that he takes his inspiration from one Dale Steyn.
The only other surprise is the call-up of another specialist spinner, Jon Holland. He has played just two Tests, in Sri Lanka in August 2016, but has been preferred to Western Australia left-arm spinner Ashton Agar to be Nathan Lyon’s deputy.
The rest of the 15-member touring squad for the four-match series was predictable, with the three-man pace attack of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood backed by Jackson Bird and Richardson, as well as all-rounder Mitchell Marsh.
The Australia selectors say they do not expect to use Holland, unless Lyon gets injured.
‘We envisage the wickets we will see in South Africa will not warrant the need to play two spinners,’ said national selector Trevor Hohns. ‘So, should Nathan not be able to play at any stage, we wanted to have the best specialist spinner available to us and based on current red-ball form, Jon warrants that spot.’
The squad features five players with Test-match experience in South Africa, with skipper Steve Smith, David Warner, Lyon and Shaun Marsh playing in 2014, while Pat Cummins made his debut as a teenager at the Wanderers.
After struggling to convert starts in his maiden Test series, opener Cameron Bancroft has retained his place in the squad, as has Victoria captain Peter Handscomb, who was dropped after two Tests in the Ashes.
Australia are looking to maintain an unbeaten record in South Africa since readmission, winning five out of seven series, including the epic 2-1 win four years ago.
The first Test starts on 1 March in Durban, followed by matches in Port Elizabeth (9 March), Cape Town (22 March) and Johannesburg (30 March).
Australia Test squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Jackson Bird, Jon Holland, Jhye Richardson.
Photo: Darren England/EPA/BackpagePix