Allrounder Hilton Cartwright will become Australia's 450th Test cricketer after being confirmed as a debutant for the third Test against Pakistan in Sydney.
Cartwright will bat at No.6 and his inclusion was one of two changes to the Australia XI that won in Melbourne, with left-arm spinner Steve O'Keefe chosen as a second spinner alongside Nathan Lyon, and fast bowler Jackson Bird left out. O'Keefe comes in for the fourth Test of his career and will be hoping to impress ahead of selection for Australia's Test squad to tour India next month.
Cartwright's inclusion marks a return to Australia's preference for picking an allrounder at No. 6, a selection policy that was ditched after the first Test of the home summer, when Mitchell Marsh was dropped for Callum Ferguson, who was then axed for Nic Maddinson. Although Cartwright averages 44.50 as a first-class batsman, he has only 15 wickets from 16 matches, but captain Steven Smith believes Cartwright's bowling has improved significantly.
"I think he's improved a lot over the last year or so," Smith said in Sydney on Monday. "I remember facing him a little while ago and I think since then he's probably gained 10ks and got a lot more consistent with his areas. I think he's improved a lot. I guess it depends how much we'll use him, how the game goes. But he's certainly improved over the last year."
Bird and spinner Ashton Agar were the two members of the 13-man squad who were left out of the XI, although Agar's presence in the group is a strong hint that he will be part of the squad to tour India.
"It was to bring him into the mix and have those three spinners working together," Smith said of Agar's inclusion in the squad. "I think the selectors probably have an eye on India and the guys that are possible to be there. I think it was just a good opportunity for those three to come together and do a little bit of work together."
However, Smith said that while the Sydney pitch was expected to offer plenty of turn, it was important to note that it was a different kind of spin that Australia would encounter in India.
"Traditionally out here it does take some spin," Smith said. "There's a little bit of grass on the wicket at the moment and it can generally spin off that grass. That's why we've gone with the two spin option."
The change of balance in Australia's attack meant Bird was squeezed out having played the past three Tests against South Africa and Pakistan. Bird has 34 wickets at 27.47 from his eight Tests and made some important breakthroughs to contribute to all three of Australia's wins.
"I thought he bowled particularly well in Melbourne," Smith said. "But conditions sometimes change the team. We've gone with two spinners on this occasion, and it's unlucky for Jackson. I thought he did bowl very well last week. He continues to improve."