Australia could play Maxwell at No. 8 in second Test

It would mean Pat Cummins being the lone frontline quick, supported by Cameron Green

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
Until now on their tours of Pakistan and Sri Lanka, Australia have not felt the need to go out of the box with their selections, although both trips have included plenty of talk of the potential to do so. The second Test in Galle may see that change, however, with Glenn Maxwell a chance to replace Mitchell Starc at No. 8.
Maxwell was not an original member of the Test squad but was called up when Travis Head became an injury doubt ahead of the opening match. Now, he would be preferred ahead of a frontline spinner, Jon Holland, should a change be made with captain Pat Cummins reckoning the runs he could provide in a potential low-scoring match could be just as important.
It would mean Cummins being the lone frontline quick although Cameron Green, who wasn't needed with the ball in the first Test, provides another pace-bowling option that, if not already, could soon be considered a frontliner.
"We've got Greeny there as a high-class quick bowler, Head, Marnus [Labuschagne], so think it makes it a bit easier to know we've got plenty of bowling if needed," Cummins said. "Even Nathan Lyon can lock him in from one end for most of the day. If the wicket plays a lot of tricks, think the batting is the area you have to try and find those extra 20-30 runs somewhere.
"Think he [Maxwell] was just about the pick of the bowlers in the one-day series, he was excellent, so the all-round package he brings, but especially the bowling, feel like easily could get 15-20 overs out of him."
Heading into the tour, Ashton Agar, who had his trip ended with a side strain, was being considered as a third spinner and it is a balance of side Australia have used in the past, albeit with Maxwell effectively giving Australia eight batters there is an extra twist.
Maxwell has previously batted at No. 8 and had a bowling role once in Test cricket, on debut against India in Hyderabad in 2012-13, but he was the second spinner on that occasion alongside Xavier Doherty. The most recent of his seven Tests, against Bangladesh in Chattogram nearly five years ago, saw him as one of four spinners alongside Agar, Lyon and Steve O'Keefe but there he batted No. 5
If Maxwell does play it would be his first first-class match since 2019 but, echoing comments Maxwell himself has made about domestic cricket in Australia being so far removed from these conditions, Cummins did not see that being an issue.
"It's pretty different first-class cricket here to what you might experience in the Sheffield Shield," he said. "It's a different pace, the wickets are so different, so the role we'd see him in his bit of bowling, bit of extra batting at No. 8 and taking the game on. Might not be grinding out a hundred, but a quickfire 30 or 40 could be invaluable."
The final decision on the XI will be made close to the toss on Friday morning with Cummins wanting to have another couple of looks at the pitch. "Probably feels a bit harder than it did last week, bit of grass on there but they are mowing it now," he said.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo