Travis Head wins recall as Aussies name one fast bowler for second Test

Pat Cummins and the Aussies have pulled a major selection surprise for the second Test against India in Delhi.

Travis Head and Pat Cummins, pictured here ahead of the second Test against India.
Travis Head is back in the XI for the second Test, while Pat Cummins is the only fast bowler. Image: Getty

Travis Head has won a recall to the Aussie XI for the second Test against India after widespread backlash that he was dropped for the first match. The South Australian, currently ranked No.4 in the ICC's Test batting rankings, was controversially left out of Australia's side for the first Test in Nagpur.

However selectors had a change of heart on Friday and brought him straight back into the side for the second match in Delhi at the expense of Matt Renshaw, with Queensland spinner Matthew Kuhnemann also named for his Test debut in place of Scott Boland.

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Head was spotted wearing his pads and inspecting the pitch in the hour before the first ball - a clear indication that he was playing. Left-arm spinner Kuhnemann has won selection and will make his Test debut as the third tweaker in Australia's XI alongside Nathan Lyon and Todd Murphy.

Pat Cummins is the only fast bowler in the side, with all-rounder Cameron Green and paceman Mitchell Starc both failing to prove their fitness amid battles with finger injuries. That means a spinner will open the bowling for Australia in a rarely-seen move for an Aussie side.

Head's inclusion comes at the expense of Renshaw, who made 0 and 2 in the first Test. Selectors have also stuck with David Warner for the time being despite his poor record in India.

"I'm not a selector. I don't think they've had a meeting but I'm sure Davey will be there," Cummins said on Thursday. "You saw [last] year at the Boxing Day Test when he puts pressure back on the opposition, he's pretty hard to bowl to. You don't get as many good balls, so he knows that. I'm sure that'd be part of his plan.

"He has been batting really well here. Even in the lead-up, I thought he was fantastic. I know there's a lot of talk about spin bowling through the middle but with that new ball it's sometimes the hardest time to bat as well."

Matthew Kuhnemann, pictured here being congratulated after being presented with his baggy green.
Matthew Kuhnemann is congratulated after being presented with his baggy green. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Cricket world applauds Travis Head recall

Speaking this week, former Australia coach Darren Lehmann described Head's axing for the first Test as 'ridiculous'. The left-hander's average in Asia is only about 22, but Lehmann couldn't fathom how the in-form batter could be left out of the side.

“The hardest thing for him now is how is he going to try and stay in the side after having such an amazing two years at home," Lehmann said. "If he’s ever going to succeed it was going to be off the back of the confidence the home series gave him. It’s a really tough one for him. Obviously they had their reasons but the records of the other blokes aren’t overly flattering either apart from [Steve] Smith, and [Marnus] Labuschagne is obviously a good player of spin.”

Fellow former Test captain Mark Taylor also called for Head to come back in. "The only way you really get better playing in those sort of conditions is (by) getting out there and doing it," he told 2GB's Wide World of Sports radio. "Now Travis Head's 29 years old, so he's probably in the prime of his career right now. So, what we need is Travis Head to be getting used to these sort of conditions."

While Steve Waugh said last week: "Hard to believe we can drop the No.4 ranked Test batsman in the world and probably our best batsman in the last 12 months. Plus he bowls better than average off spin - let's wait and see - maybe the Aussie selectors are geniuses."

Australia XI for second Test: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Peter Handscomb, Alex Carey (wk), Pat Cummins (c), Todd Murphy, Nathan Lyon, Matthew Kuhnemann.

India XI: Rohit Sharma (c), KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KS Bharat (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj.

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