Australia have realised they must utilise spin more effectively if they’re to win the one-day tri-series in Harare, with Nathan Lyon recalled to face Zimbabwe on Sunday.
Selectors have made three changes from the side that suffered a seven-wicket loss to South Africa earlier in the week, with captain Michael Clarke to also make his return from a left hamstring injury which sidelined him from the first two matches.
Clarke comes in at the expense of Steve Smith, Lyon replaces the rested Mitchell Johnson and bowling allrounder Ben Cutting gets his first opportunity of the tour in place of Kane Richardson.
In a batting reshuffle, Clarke will come in at No.3 pushing allrounder Mitchell Marsh back to No.6 for the match which can guarantee Australia their place in the final against the Proteas.
Lyon’s axing for the Proteas clash has been shown up to be a mistake and his return allows Johnson to freshen up for the business end of the round robin tournament, which concludes with a final on Saturday September 6.
Clarke says the five overs bowled by Australia’s part-timers Smith and Glenn Maxwell against South Africa simply wasn’t enough in the slow conditions, and Lyon will take on a sizeable responsibility.
“I think the selectors have got to think about the conditions we’re playing in and what they think is the right attack to beat South Africa and Zimbabwe in these last two games,” Clarke said.
“We’ve got to use our spinners a bit more than what we have so far.”
Australia’s decision to drop Lyon was made to look even more misguided in hindsight by the fact Zimbabwean spinner Prosper Utseya claimed a five-wicket haul – including a hat-trick – against the South Africans on the same pitch two days later.
Zimbabwe bowled South Africa out for 231, with eight wickets taken by spinners, and although the Proteas rallied to win the match, Australia were given an insight by the hosts into the tactics required to be successful in Harare.
“We tend to prepare wickets that are slow and that turn,” said Utseya, who will be tested next month in Cardiff after being reported for a suspect bowling action prior to this series.
“So we’ll always try to play to our strengths when we’re playing at home.”
Smith is the unlucky man to miss out for Clarke, meaning Phil Hughes retains his place opening the batting.
With Smith’s leg-spinners out of the equation, Glenn Maxwell will be utilised as a part-time option, and Clarke says he’s also fit to bowl his left-arm orthodox if required. Australia: Aaron Finch, Phil Hughes, Michael Clarke (capt), George Bailey, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Marsh, Brad Haddin, James Faulkner, Ben Cutting, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon.