Work to do for Swepson as he eyes India tour

It wasn’t only South Australia’s long-suffering top-order batters who might have allowed themselves a fleeting sigh of relief upon learning Queensland’s dominant new ball pair Michael Neser and Mark Steketee would be absent from the current Marsh Sheffield Shield game at Adelaide Oval.

While he has reveled in watching the Bulls pair cut a swathe through rival line-ups this summer, Test-capped leg spinner Mitchell Swepson has become an incidental victim of his teammates who have ensured rival batters don’t hang around long enough to face more than a few overs of spin.

Prior to this week’s game at Adelaide Oval – which Neser and Steketee are missing having been named for the upcoming PM’s XI game against West Indies in Canberra – Swepson had sent down just 80 overs in his preceding three Shield games.

And more than half of those (44.1) came in the second innings of Queensland’s season-opener against New South Wales at Drummoyne Oval where he claimed 5-113, including the first two Blues wickets to fall.

But in subsequent games against Western Australia and Victoria, Swepson has been needed for just 13 (0-36) and four overs (0-14) respectively, so rampant have been the pace pair who between them boast 47 wickets at a remarkable 12.8 runs apiece this Shield season.

For that reason, and with the Bulls selecting just three seamers for the SA game – Xavier Bartlett, Gurinder Sandhu and James Bazley – Swepson was looking forward to lengthy spells on the Adelaide Oval pitch to help him find the rhythm and routine that has eluded him over recent weeks.

“Stekkers and Ness have been an absolute privilege to watch this summer,” Swepson told cricket.com.au at the end of a rain-interrupted first day in Adelaide.

“They’ve had the ball on a string, and the reason I wear this cap and come out on the field is to win games for Queensland, so if we’re winning and doing well it’s no skin off my nose if I’m not bowling much.

“But on a personal note, it can be hard to find your rhythm a little bit, you want to bowl and bowl and bowl.

“That’s a struggle I felt a bit starting out here (yesterday), coming off a couple of games of not much bowling.

“So it’s just getting back into bowling and finding that rhythm, that’s something I’ll try to keep improving in this game.

“We’ve come here with just the four bowlers so I’ll be needed here, particularly in the second innings.”

Initially it seemed Swepson’s hopes of an increased workload would be dashed when Bartlett, Sandhu and Bazley tore through SA’s top-order and reduced them to 5-25 in less than 20 overs yesterday, of which the leg-spinner had bowled none.

But in conditions more suited to winter football codes than executing wrist spin, Swepson grappled with an often-damp ball and spirited lower-order resistance to send down 23.4 overs in the Redbacks first innings of 240.

The 29-year-old, who made his Test debut against Pakistan at Karachi in March this year and has taken 10 wickets (at 45.80) from his four Tests, bowled more than 20 of those overs from Adelaide’s scoreboard end without luck before a switch to the southern end also brought a change of fortune.

Swepson bowls on debut in Karachi // Getty
Swepson bowls on debut in Karachi // Getty

He dismissed SA tailenders Wes Agar and Brendan Doggett to wrap up the innings in which he finished with 2-61, representing a tidy return in conditions tailor-made for seam bowlers.

“It’s great they (Queensland) have got the confidence in me to go with the three quicks and know that I can lock in and bowl some long spells, and I think that’s when I do my best work,” Swepson said.

“When I get to lock in from one end and find that rhythm, and really work out the batsmen.

“So I’m really looking forward to the rest of this game.”

Swepson is also quietly confident his workload in Adelaide will provide a springboard into the second half of the Australia summer as he pushes his case for retention in the Test squad for the four-Test tour to India scheduled for February-March next year.

He admits he was aware of weekend media reports claiming fellow leggie Adam Zampa had been floated as a possible inclusion for the India campaign even though Zampa has not played a first-class game since December 2019 when he was representing South Australia.

Swepson remains hopeful he will again be in consideration for Australia’s next Test tour to spin-friendly conditions – their third consecutive away sojourn to the subcontinent – ​​but is also delighted to witness Zampa’s successes in limited-overs cricket that have led to last week’s speculation.

“He’s on top of his game at the moment, he’s bowling beautifully and Zamps is a good mate of mine,” Swepson said.

“I’ve always loved being around him and to see his game, where it’s gone at the moment has been really impressive in the white-ball games.

“It was funny to see that in the media, but for me I’m not thinking too far ahead.

“I haven’t really bowled much over the last couple of Shield games, and India is a long way away still.

“So I’m just focusing on trying to bowl well, trying to win games for Queensland and if the ball’s coming out of my hand well, having four Tests under my belt now probably helps me a bit on that front.

“Hopefully I get that opportunity (to tour India), but there’s a lot of cricket to be played between now and then so I’ll just focus on those games and let the other stuff work itself out.”

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