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Test selection shock as dumped spinner recalled

Cricket

Australia have dropped a selection bombshell, adding dumped spinner Steve O’Keefe to their Test squad in Bangladesh to replace injured paceman Josh Hazlewood.

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Hazlewood will return home at the conclusion of the first Test in Dhaka and will also miss next month’s limited-overs tour of India after suffering a side strain while bowling on day three.

The Australian camp are confident Hazlewood will recover in time for the summer Ashes series, with the plan for him to play all three Sheffield Shield matches ahead of the opening Test.

His departure has paved the way for O’Keefe’s shock recall, with Australia weighing up whether to play three spinners in next week’s second Test in Chittagong.

“With Jackson Bird in the squad, we are comfortable with our fast-bowling options for the second Test,” national selector Trevor Hohns said.

“We have elected to add an additional spinner given the conditions we are likely to face in Chittagong.”

The 32-year-old O’Keefe’s career had appeared over when he was left out of the squad for the Bangladesh tour despite his match-winning heroics in the first Test against India in Pune.

Australian skipper Steve Smith last week said the decision to replace O’Keefe with fellow left-arm spinner Ashton Agar was driven by the need to prepare for the next Test tour of India in 2021.

“For us, it’s more looking to the future,” Smith said.

“Ashton has obviously been on the radar for a long time and someone we see as having a pretty bright future

“Four years’ time back in India, it’s something I want to achieve whilst I’m captain … I want to win in India, that’s big on my bucket list.”

Hazlewood will bat if required when Australia resume at 2-109 in Dhaka on Wednesday, requiring a further 156 runs to claim a remarkable comeback victory.

With Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson both also nursing injuries, Hazlewood’s setback eaves speed machine Pat Cummins as the only first-choice paceman available.

“He’s going to be really hard to replace,” Cummins said.

“He’s played all but one of the last 30 Tests.

“He said it is going to be pretty hard sitting at home watching, he hasn’t done that for three or four years so he’s a big member around the group.

“I am going to miss having dinner with him every night, but we have got Jackson Bird waiting in the wings which is great.”

South Australian Kane Richardson has been selected to replace Hazlewood for next month’s one-day international series in India.

– AAP

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