Peter Siddle has been recalled to the Australia Test squad as a replacement for Josh Hazlewood, ahead of the Boxing Day Test against New Zealand in Melbourne, although remains only an outside chance of playing.
In a move flagged by head coach Justin Langer during the Perth Test, the selectors have returned to Siddle who will bring home-ground experience of the MCG and strong Sheffield Shield returns this season where he is Victoria’s leading wicket-taker with 18 at 19.77.
Siddle played in three of the Ashes Tests, taking nine wickets, but picked up an injury early at The Oval
However, if Australia only make one change for Boxing Day – a replacement for Hazlewood, who suffered a hamstring strain in his second over in Perth – Siddle will remain behind James Pattinson and Michael Neser in the pecking order.
They have both been part of the Test squad throughout the season and Pattinson, who was ruled out of contention for the opening Test of the season against Pakistan in Brisbane due to his code of conduct suspension, is the favourite to come into the side.
“You’d imagine a couple of guys would have to get injured [for Siddle to play],” Langer said. “A lot has been made about someone coming in but you have to cover your bases, especially with Big Bash going on you have to make sure you have enough cover. I’d say James Pattinson or Michael Neser, or both of them, will definitely play the Test.”
Langer added that the various formats now being played with the start of the BBL had also been taken into consideration. “We have Sean Abbott going into the one-day side [for the India tour] so we want him to play Big Bash cricket, so he’s playing all white-ball cricket, so a lot thinking goes into these things. We think Sids is the right person for this Test.
“Peter helped us retain the Ashes, he’s got over 200 Test wickets, he’s a ripping person around the team and for Boxing Day it seemed like a simple solution.”
Langer has also spoken about the potential of playing a five-man attack in Melbourne with an eye on the workloads of Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins plus a recent history of Test pitches that have been hard work for bowlers. That would mean leaving out a batsman, either Travis Head or Matthew Wade, with one of the quicks batting at No. 7 behind Tim Paine at No. 6.
“If the wicket’s like it’s been in the last few years, we might even be able to play four quicks and a spinner,” Langer said during the Perth Test. “There’s lots of combinations. It’s nice to see Marnus and Travis Head bowling, that gives us a good combination as well.”
There will be much interest in the MCG pitch in the lead-up to the Test following the abandonment of the Sheffield Shield match between Victoria and Western Australia.