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Agar and Renshaw earn Australia call-ups for Sydney Test

The home side have given themselves the option of playing two spinners at the SCG

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
Ashton Agar resisted the West Indies bowlers batting at No. 7, Prime Minister's XI vs West Indies, Tour match, Canberra, November 23, 2022

Ashton Agar's batting is viewed as a key part to the package he provides  •  Getty Images

Ashton Agar and Matt Renshaw have been called up for the final Test against South Africa in Sydney as Australia prepare for the possibility of playing two spinners.
Australia will have at least two changes at the SCG as they look to complete a 3-0 series win and all-but secure a place in the World Test Championship final with Cameron Green and Mitchell Starc both ruled out with broken fingers suffered at the MCG.
Green's absence creates a headache in balancing the side and both the players called into the squad provide different routes.
Agar, who played the most recent of his four Tests in 2017, could bat at No. 7 and partner Nathan Lyon in a twin-spin attack should the SCG pitch, which has taken turn at various times this season, look dry for the Test.
He would likely have made the Test side in Sri Lanka earlier this year if he had not suffered a side strain during the limited-overs leg. His call-up now also puts him in prime position for a spot on the India tour in February where a left-arm fingerspinner is viewed as a key component.
If Agar plays he will have to defy a underwhelming first-class record were he averages 41.84 with the ball, and a strike-rate of 82.2, although a batting average of 28.38 (and the famous 98 he made in Test debut in 2013) is viewed as a way of providing some run-scoring ability in the lower middle order, which would likely see Alex Carey move to No. 6.
"Ashton offers a second spin option should the Sydney pitch be conducive to turn, as it has done in the past," selector Tony Dodemaide said. "He also brings a solid batting component."
In the last two years Agar has only played three first-class matches which have brought seven wickets, largely due to being a regular in Australia's white-ball set-ups. He has been preferred ahead of legspinner Mitchell Swepson, who played in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and the uncapped offspinner Todd Murphy.
Renshaw an option for middle order
If Australia opt for a more traditional balance then Renshaw, who has 11 caps and last played in 2018, could slot into the middle order. His versatility was noted by Dodemaide and would likely see him jump ahead of Marcus Harris who has been the spare batter in the squad throughout the Test summer.
Renshaw has returned to opening the batting for Queensland in the Sheffield Shield this season having had a run in the middle order prior to that and made an unbeaten 200 against New South Wales, followed by scores of 81 and 101 not out for the Prime Minister's XI against West Indies in Canberra.
The selectors will also have to decide who replaces Starc in the pace attack. Speaking during the MCG Test, head coach Andrew McDonald indicated that Lance Morris, the fastest bowler in Australia, could be in line for a debut.
That raises the question of whether Josh Hazlewood will find a spot to return having declared himself fit after a side strain he picked up against West Indies in Perth and saw him withdraw from contention for the Boxing Day Test. Scott Boland put in another good shift at the MCG with three wickets and now has 28 at 12.21 in his six Tests.
"In terms of fast bowlers, it's a blessing to have Josh returning while Lance offers a genuine point of difference with his raw pace and skill," Dodemaide said.
Australia squad for Sydney Test vs South Africa Pat Cummins, Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Lance Morris, Matthew Renshaw, Steven Smith, David Warner

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo