NEW DELHI: Australia going into a Test match with just one pacer is a rarity but former spinner Steve O’Keefe is confident the Pat Cummins-led side has the capability to bounce back after the innings loss in Nagpur against India.
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Australia lost the opening Test of the Border-Gavaskar series by an innings and 132 runs on a turning track, which prompted Cummins to go with just one quick and three spinners — Nathan Lyon, Todd Murphy and debutant Matthew Kuhnemann — in the second Test at the Arun Jaitley Stadium on Friday.
This is the first time in more than five years that Australia are playing three regular spinners, with the previous occasion being the2017 Test against Bangladesh in Chattogram, where the visitors went in with three tweakers — Lyon, Ashton Agar and O’Keefe.
With pacers Cameron Green and Mitchell Starc not selected due to injury concerns and Josh Hazlewood succumbing to a left Achilles tendon issue, Cummins is the only quick who will do all the heavy lifting in the pace-bowling department.
Travis Head, who is back in the playing XI, and Marnus Labuschagne can also shoulder the bowling burden with their spin.
Despite criticism of the Australian side following the debacle, O’Keefe said he remains positive about his team’s chances in the four-Test series.
“I still remain bullish on the series with this Australian side,” O’Keefe said on ‘SEN Radio’.
“In India, in their last 43 Tests at home, they’ve lost two. They are unstoppable, we’re talking about a country with 1.4 billion cricket lovers and they are experts in their own conditions.
“It is hard… but I genuinely believe guys like (Steve) Smith, Labuschagne, Head, (Matthew) Renshaw, are guys who are capable enough to play spin.”
Australia XI: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Peter Handscomb, Alex Care… https://t.co/BUHdfWtkrJ
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While Renshaw failed to impress in Nagpur getting dismissed for 0 and 2, openers David Warner and Usman Khawaja too failed in both the innings, but O’Keefe felt the batters can bounce back.
“Usman Khawaja can do really well, we’re expecting David Warner with all his experience to stand up, and if the Aussies look back at that last game, there were fleeting moments where they had chances to grab the games.
“There was a couple of chances to turn that 170 into 270 and it’s a different game,” he said.
Australia were dismissed for 177 in the first innings of the Nagpur Test.
“I look at it optimistically, I believe we are a good chance of beating them (India), I believe we are a good chance of winning the series, a lot of the commentary around the team is really negative and I don’t think it reflects what’s going on inside that changeroom.
“I think you’ll see a strong, resilient side. They (Australia) are ranked No.1 in the world…”