Cricket fans have expressed their disbelief after Scott Boland was dropped for the third Test against South Africa at the SCG. With the pitch appearing to be a throwback to the SCG wickets of old, the Aussies opted for Ashton Agar as a second spinner.
Josh Hazlewood also came back into the XI for the third and final Test of the series after missing the last three matches due to a side strain. It means Boland is the unlucky man to miss out despite his incredible start to Test cricket.
MAJOR CHANGES: BBL cut down in new $1.5b broadcast deal
The Victorian has taken 28 wickets in just six matches at the staggering average of 12.21. He memorably took 6-7 at the MCG in 2021 during the Ashes series and has been firing again against South Africa this summer.
However there was no room for him when Pat Cummins announced the Aussie XI on Wednesday. Speaking on Channel 7, Greg Blewett said he was surprised Australia didn't play five bowlers and bat Agar at No.6 or 7, while fans on social media labelled it a 'joke' and 'disgrace' that Boland wasn't playing.
Instead, Matt Renshaw will bat at 6 in his first Test since 2018. Speaking on Tuesday, Cummins said he was hoping the SCG pitch would provide some spin-friendly conditions ahead of Australia's tour of India starting next month.
"Fast bowling and reverse swing is going to come into it, which we can expect in India," the captain said. "(We'll) probably get more spin overs here, our batters are probably going to face more spin here as well.
"Even personally, captaining here might be a little different to the last few Test matches. So it's a really good prep."
Cummins said he wasn't worried about only having four front-line bowlers given Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne can help out with their part-time spin. Steve Smith also bowled in the second Test at the MCG and took the final wicket of the match.
"We'd be confident either way," Cummins said. "I feel really fresh. I've only played three Test matches and think we've averaged mid 20 overs (each) for the Tests.
"I'm fresh as I'm ever going to be for a fifth Test match. I'm not playing Big Bash so I get three weeks off after this."
How could Scott Boland be dropped?
Bowled beautifully at the G.
Pecking order? Seriously.
— Mark Stevens (@StevoMedia) January 3, 2023
Imagine having a weapon like Scott Boland and not playing him. 😐
— Kitt 🐯 (@kitt__m) January 3, 2023
Keen as to see Renshaw get another chance and Hazlewood finally fit again. Notttt happy that Scott Boland has been dropped though!!!
— Ella 🦅🦅 (@ellapk3) January 3, 2023
— Chris Lumsden (@Chris2Far86) January 3, 2023
SCG curators in touching move for Shane Warne
Curators have opted to use the No.3 wicket at the SCG in a touching tribute to Shane Warne. The Spin King played the final match of his Test career on the third pitch.
"When we were doing our investigation, we worked out Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Justin Langer had their final Test on pitch No.3," SCG curator Adam Lewis said. "So in our planning we had that in the back of our mind.
"We tried bringing grass in on pitch No.5 as best we could, but with the amount of play we've had through the whole season, it just couldn't get there in time. Knowing that Shane Warne and the guys played their last Test on No.3, it just felt right so we put our energy into it.
"Shane was really good not just for players, he was always good for curators. He always stood up for us and knew we wore our heart on our sleeves."
AUSTRALIA XI: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Matt Renshaw, Alex Carey, Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.
SOUTH AFRICA XI: Dean Elgar, Sarel Erwee, Heinrich Klaasen, Temba Bavuma, Khaya Zondo, Kyle Verreynne, Marco Jansen, Keshav Maharaj, Simon Harmer, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje.
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.