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Highly-praised Holland waits his turn

Brydon Coverdale

October 17, 2012

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Jon Holland trains with Australia A, Manchester, August 6, 2012
Jon Holland toured England with Australia A, but has bowled only ten overs in the first two Sheffield Shield matches this season © Getty Images
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Jon Holland is one of the two best spinners in Australia at the moment, according to the national selector John Inverarity. The problem is getting a chance to prove it.

Although Nathan Lyon remains the front-runner for the spin position in Australia's squad for the first Test against South Africa early next month, the pressure will build on Lyon if Holland piles up the wickets over the next fortnight. That can only happen if Victoria's world-class pace attack led by James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, John Hastings and Clint McKay don't skittle opposition teams. And at the moment, they're making batsmen from all over the country look like Chris Martin.

That has created a selection dilemma for Victoria, who must also squeeze Andrew McDonald back into the side after his return from the Champions League Twenty20. Inverarity's panel wants to see Holland given game time, especially after his strong performances during the Australia A tour of England during the winter. On that trip, Holland picked up ten wickets at 27.30 compared to Lyon's eight at 48.75, which confirmed that he had jumped ahead of Michael Beer in the national queue.

"I think it's fair to say that we're of the view that the two best spinners we've got just at this moment are Nathan Lyon and Jon Holland," Inverarity said in Sydney on Tuesday.

"I saw [Holland] bowl in Adelaide last year in a one-dayer when he got 6 for 29 and he bowled beautifully. There was a variation in spin, a variation in pace and he flighted the ball, he bowled beautifully. We took him on the Australia A tour and he bowled very well. We all go through patches, and Lyon was in a bad patch in England and Holland outbowled him. But Lyon in Adelaide was bowling very differently to the way he bowled in England."

Wickets have not been forthcoming for Lyon early in the Sheffield Shield season - he has two victims at 112.50 - but he remains the Test incumbent and appears likely to retain his place for now. But the glowing praise from Inverarity, who himself took 221 first-class wickets bowling left-arm orthodox, has given Holland heart that he is on the right track, and that an opportunity in the baggy green could come at any time.

"It's pretty good to hear that from the chairman of selectors for Australia," Holland told ESPNcricinfo. "But I'm more focused on playing for Victoria at the moment. If that comes along then so be it. But Nathan Lyon is bowling pretty well and he's done a good job with his opportunities. I dare say he's still in front.

"On the A trip he [Inverarity] was over in England, I spoke to him a few times there. He's been pretty happy with the way I bowl, the way I go about things with my flight. He picked up something with my action in Brisbane on a pre-season camp, I was falling over a bit and my head was going to one side, he said to try and keep that as straight as possible."

Every little piece of advice is a bonus for Holland, who at 25 has been on the domestic scene for four years, and on the minds of Australia's selectors for most of that time. He was called up for Australia's ODI tour of India in October 2009 but did not play a game, and has now had four stints at the Centre of Excellence in Brisbane, gradually developing his art.

 
 
"It's pretty important on Australian wickets that you do change your pace and your flight, because you don't get much help out of the wicket." Jon Holland
 

Initially, his opportunities with Victoria were limited by the presence of the legspinner Bryce McGain, but over the past two years Holland has clearly been the Bushrangers' frontline slow bowler. He is yet to take a first-class five-wicket haul, but that is not unusual for an Australian spinner on the cusp of a call-up - Nathan Hauritz and Nathan Lyon both claimed their maiden five-wicket hauls while playing Test cricket.

Now his chances are dictated by the success of Victoria's fast men. In the first two Sheffield Shield games this season, Holland was bowled a total of 10 overs and has taken 0 for 34.

"There hasn't really been a great deal in the wickets for me," he said. "But with the bowling attack we've had, James Pattinson and Peter Siddle are world-class bowlers and Clint McKay, John Hastings and Andrew McDonald aren't too far behind them. They've done a really good job in the first two games and have taken wickets on a regular basis, so I wasn't really required at all, which is a good thing from a team point of view. It's always good to take a few wickets yourself but as long as we're winning I'm not really that fussed."

Next week, Holland will have the chance to bowl at the MCG for the first time this season - assuming he is picked to play Tasmania - and it's a venue that is unlikely to offer him much spin. But much like Daniel Vettori, Holland's key weapon is not prodigious turn but subtle changes of pace, and he is confident that his style will allow him to have success on any surface.

"It's pretty important on Australian wickets that you do change your pace and your flight, because you don't get much help out of the wicket," he said. "The MCG last year was fairly flat, it didn't really break up and take much spin. But as long as I'm consistently bowling in the one area it should be right on any pitches and in any conditions. As long as I'm hitting the right spot and changing my pace I don't think I need to vary my bowling too much."

For the time being, just getting a bowl would be a start.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by Meety on (October 18, 2012, 23:03 GMT)

@Jono Makim - whilst I'd have to agree in that I have never seem anything resembling loop in SO'Ks bowling, he has to have a sub-30 FC record for a reason, Hauritz played a lot of cricket at the SCG & doesn't. He looked more dangerous than any other spinner we used during the Ashes summer (based on just the Hobart game).

Posted by   on (October 18, 2012, 12:48 GMT)

@GlinnMcgraw, players should always be under pressure to keep their spot, if they can't deal with that how can we expect them to deal with the pressure of an ashes series? As for Lyon i don't think the media are putting any undue pressure on him, purely pointing out that he was outbowled in england, however I don't think anyone is suggesting that he is in any danger of losing his spot as the no.1 spinner in the emediate future

Posted by KingofRedLions on (October 18, 2012, 10:02 GMT)

@Joseph McGahan - Don't be silly. There is absolutely the potential to put undue pressure on players, regardless of the level. Hauritz got shunted because of needless pressure. We can't afford a repeat of his story.

Posted by   on (October 18, 2012, 8:31 GMT)

Everyone keeps on about the SOK, but he only takes ten FC wickets per summer... and he simply bowls darts. I would say his record probably benefits a bit from being based in Sydney.

Posted by zenboomerang on (October 18, 2012, 6:02 GMT)

Not sure why Holland is becoming the no.2 spinner for Oz?... Beer had a better SS season last summer & managed a 7-for, while Boyce was nearly as good... Even Maxwell has a better bowling average, economy rate & strike rate + a FC batting average of 45... O'Keefe in comparison to Holland is a virtuoso bowler & batter... As for Dutchies 6-for-29 in a one-dayer, that match was exceptional - from memory the Vic's managed only 123 all out, then the Redbacks got the 124 on the back of some great batting from Cooper with the help of the bowlers - so much for Adelaide Oval being a batsman's paradise...

Posted by Liquefierrrr on (October 18, 2012, 5:13 GMT)

Why has O'Keefe, as per several sentiments below, been overlooked? He holds the best average for any spinner in the country by a considerable margin, bats well, and has international experience. Meety raises a good point, he bowls 81 balls per match, so his role has been muddled due to his ability with the bat. That should be an added extra, when he first appeared on the scene he did so as a SLA spinner who was handy down the order. He needs to bowl and bowl and bowl this season.

Posted by Meety on (October 17, 2012, 23:26 GMT)

@PanditCricketanand on (October 17 2012, 10:07 AM GMT) - there are parrallells - but if your pace bowling is good enuff (read WIndies 1980s), you don't need spinners. So I'd rather be looking for a spinner than looking for a pacer!!!!! @VivGilchrist on - I really think SO'K would be a great addition to an Ozzy XI for a tour of India. With SO'K batting at say #7, you vould easily play 2 spinners & still have room for 3 specialist seamers + Watto. I would ASSUME that playing a lot at the SCG would mean his batting would be decent against spin. I really do believe Oz need to pick a Test team specific to touring India for that series. == == == Holland deserves to be mentioned, but the reality is, his FC stats are barely better than any of the other main contenders (SO'K & Lyon to the side). It is a tough situation for Vic to have to juggle all these good players into XI, but it is hard going to get selected for Oz when you are not even a certain starterfor your Shield side.

Posted by Meety on (October 17, 2012, 23:15 GMT)

@steve_mcking1 on (October 17 2012, 08:32 AM GMT) - SO'Ks stats are so good he (in most people's eyes), deserves to be mentioned much more. The problem with SO'Ks excellent bowling average is when you look at wickets per match, its quite low, which is an indicator of not bowling much. Compared to the other frontline or recently used spinners in Oz the average balls per match are; SO'K 81, Doherty 204, Beer 204, Lyon 203, Hauritz 195, Holland 190, Boyce 125, Maxwell 118, S Smith 109. Given that SO'K bowls LESS than even S Smith, it would indicate that maybe he is in the allrounder category? There have been other factors, like often there has been more than one spinner in the team, & NSW often play a good bowling allrounder like Watto or Henriques, (Smith even?). So SO'K is a bit of a mystery to me, statistically very good, but severely under used in the Shield.

Posted by VivGilchrist on (October 17, 2012, 21:05 GMT)

OKeefe has the best record. He is the only one that averages under 30. He captains his state, which should speak volumes, he spins it away from right-handers, and he is an all-rounder which means he strengthens the tail at no8 or bats 7 and allows room for another quick or spinner depending on the pitch. It's a no-brainer.

Posted by whatawicket on (October 17, 2012, 18:38 GMT)

i still think hauritz is the best spinner and has not had a fair deal by the selectors.

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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