Pakistan mull picking Asghar as second spinner

Samiuddin: Pakistan could go for two spinners (3:28)

Australia and Pakistan both seem to have turned towards more spinning options for the third and final Test in Sydney (3:28)

Left-arm spinner Mohammad Asghar could be in line for a debut in the third and final Test against Australia at the SCG, as Pakistan actively consider the option of playing two spinners.

The Sydney surface has traditionally been good for spin and is likely to be this year as well. Australia, with one eye on their tour of India, have already named two spinners in their XI- Nathan Lyon and Steve O'Keefe.

Asghar, who will become the first Balochistan-born cricketer to play a Test match if he debuts, was called up to the squad initially as a back-up for Yasir Shah after the legspinner pulled up with a back injury ahead of the warm-up game in Cairns at the start of the tour.

On tour, he has impressed Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq, a man not easily impressed by spinners. Misbah spoke in unusually glowing terms of Asghar's left-arm spin in private and did so publicly on Monday.

"I'm really impressed by his bowling," Misbah said. "I've seen his temperament [at the Pakistan Super League] that was massive for him, big tournament. The way he handled pressure there. They used him in the circle against some of the most destructive batsman in the world.

"He bowled with a lot of control and courage. The way he's bowling in the nets, he's been tremendous. Even some of the best players of spin, they really rate him up. He's the one you can trust anytime."

Asghar came to national attention with Peshawar Zalmi in the PSL in February 2016, where he took 11 wickets; he has since evolved and on a Pakistan A tour of Zimbabwe in October, was the second-highest wicket-taker in the four-day matches.

As captain, Misbah has traditionally opted for two specialist spinners in his playing XI in the UAE and switched to one outside of Asia. Until 2015, Mohammad Hafeez provided a handy offspin option outside Asia. If they do play two spinners in Sydney, it would be the first time Pakistan will do so outside Asia since a Test in Harare in September 2013, when Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman played.

"It can be an option," Misbah said. "It all depends on the final look of the pitch, how it comes up on the last day especially, before the start. It's not that if Australia have got two spinners then we have to also put two spinners. It's about how to think about the conditions and how we can strengthen our team. We'll definitely go for it if we think that this pitch is going to do a little bit for the spinners on the last day."

According to the SCG curator, the pitch should do a bit, provided the weather holds up and there is some sun - the forecast isn't great, with sporadic showers and cloud cover over the next few days.

"You're going to see pretty much a traditional SCG pitch," Tom Parker said. "The SCG always traditionally spins. That's been the nature of the beast here for many years. All of our games this season... we've seen a fair bit of turn."

Another spinner may also ease the burden on Yasir Shah, who has struggled not only with conditions but with the lines that he has bowled, or been asked to bowl. So far, Yasir has bowled 94.1 overs in the two Tests, for six wickets, and conceded over four runs an over.

If Asghar does get picked, it will also be the first time in 20 years that Pakistan have played two spinners in a Test in Australia. The last time it happened was also in Sydney, in December 1995; Mushtaq Ahmed and Saqlain Mushtaq took 11 wickets between them in Pakistan's last Test win in the country.

One factor that will not influence the selection is Pakistan's slow over rate. They have been punished for slow over rates three times in their last four Tests. "You don't make strategies for slow over rates," Misbah said. "You obviously want to have a combination that you think can win the game. That is our priority and if we think it is a 3-1 [three pacers, one spinner] pitch, definitely we will go for that. We have to improve in changeovers."