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Lyon, Swepson could have Shield in a spin

·3-min read

Usman Khawaja thinks the Sheffield Shield final could become a battle of the spinners as the country's two best exponents go toe-to-toe in Brisbane from Thursday.

While both Queensland and NSW are brimming with pace threats, Blues off-spinner Nathan Lyon and Bulls leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson will report to Allan Border Field for the five-day decider as the potential game-changers.

Lyon (39 dismissals at 25) has played all eight Shield fixtures this season to top the competition wicket tally while Swepson (29 at 22) has produced an eye-popping highlight reel either side of a lay-off to treat a fractured neck.

"They're the two best spinners in the country really, so it's great to see them both playing a final," Blues skipper Kurtis Patterson said.

"Nathan's been amazing his whole career and the way Mitch has improved over the last 18 months ... he's certainly the No.2 behind Nathan and he's earned that."

Fast bowlers have hogged the spotlight at a bouncy, seaming Gabba, where the Bulls usually call home, while using swing-friendly Dukes balls for a period of last season was another barrier for spinners.

But Khawaja has given Swepson every chance to shine under his captaincy, revealing a "line in the sand" moment last season.

"I was talking to Chuck (coach Wade Seccombe) and um-ing an ah-ing whether to play him and I said 'Australia has Nathan Lyon, are they're playing him at the Gabba?'," he said.

"He said yes, so I said, 'well we have to play Sweppo every single game, play our best spinner'. And since then we've always picked him, it's not really a matter of conditions any more.

"As a leg-spinner the hardest thing to do is bowl well to a left-hander and he's been making left-handers look silly all season.

"They have a very good spinner too in Nathan Lyon; it could be the battle of the spin bowlers."

Queensland will lean on a top order that also includes former Test openers Joe Burns and Matthew Renshaw as well as current world No.3 Test batsman Marnus Labuschagne, who has scored centuries in both games against the Blues this season.

"We've got a couple of tricks up our sleeve we haven't tried yet," Patterson said of halting Labuschagne's long run of form.

The IPL has robbed the Blues of Pat Cummins, David Warner, Steve Smith and Moises Henriques, but their depth was good enough to easily win the One Day Cup on Sunday as they eye back-to-back Shield titles.

Khawaja, who moved north from NSW in 2012 after playing in one losing Shield final and missing selection in a winning one, is still chasing his first title after national duties kept him away from two Queensland victories.

"Look at Ricky Ponting; he didn't win one until his final year," he said.

"I'm a Queenslander ... we love our sport and we want to win and it's great to see in a world where BBL's dominating that there's still so many people who love the Shield."

Queensland squad: Usman Khawaja (c), Xavier Bartlett, Joe Burns, Brendan Doggett, Marnus Labuschagne, Michael Neser, Jimmy Peirson, Matthew Renshaw, Billy Stanlake, Bryce Street, Mitchell Swepson, Jack Wildermuth.

NSW squad: Sean Abbott, Harry Conway, Trent Copeland, Jack Edwards, Matthew Gilkes, Josh Hazlewood, Lachlan Hearne, Baxter Holt, Daniel Hughes, Nathan Lyon, Peter Nevill, Kurtis Patterson, Jason Sangha, Tanveer Sangha, Mitchell Starc.