• Test bolter Jon Holland thought ‘maybe my time was starting to get past me’

    Jon Holland won’t be holding his breath waiting for a bowl in the Test series in South Africa. Then again, as recently as three weeks ago Holland declared he wouldn’t be holding his breath waiting for a phone call from the national selectors.

    But that’s exactly what happened on Monday morning when chairman of selector Trevor Hohns rang the 30-year-old Victorian and told him he was one of two fresh faces in the 15-man Australian squad for the four-Test tour of South Africa. He will join WA paceman Jhye Richardson and the 13 men who played in the Ashes series.

    “It was a bit of a shock, definitely,” Holland said. “Trevor rang me this morning and I wasn’t expecting the call to go to South Africa, so pleasantly surprised.

    “To get another call-up and get the opportunity to tour with an Australian team is pretty exciting.”

    The left-arm spinner, who played in two Tests in Sri Lanka in 2016, was essentially included as the understudy for established off-spinner Nathan Lyon. His recall was somewhat of a surprise given WA’s Ashton Agar was picked ahead of him in the squad for the fifth Ashes Test at the SCG earlier this month.

    “I’m not sure why I wasn’t picked in the Sydney Test as the second spinner; maybe Ashton was going to be an all-rounder or something like that,” he said.

    “‘I’m not sure what the selectors were thinking, but to get called up I’m not going to knock it back.”

    Even though the only cricket Holland has played in 2018 is one Big Bash match for the Renegades a fortnight ago, Hohns said he deserved a recall.

    “Jon was the second-leading wicket-taker in the Sheffield Shield last season and has performed well in the games he has played for Victoria this season,” Hohns said.

    “We envisage the wickets we will see in South Africa will not warrant the need to play two spinners. Therefore, should Nathan not be able to play at any stage, we wanted to have the best specialist spinner available to us and based on current red-ball form Jon warrants that spot.”

    Australia, which has not lost a Test series in South Africa since the 1960s, is highly unlikely to play two spinners in the expected seam-friendly conditions it encounters on tour, although Holland perked up when informed about the dry, turning wicket in the Proteas’ Test against India at Centurion last week.

    “If there’s a drought that might increase my chances of getting a game, but we’ll just have to wait and see when we get over there,” he said with a chuckle.

    To find an instance of Australia playing two spinners in South Africa, you need to look back to the Shane Warne-Tim May partnership in 1994.

    “I’ve bowled a fair with Nathan, obviously in Sri Lanka we played together and on an Australia A tour to England we bowled together there as well,” he said.

    Holland feared he had become a forgotten man in the selectors’ eyes since “not performing as well as I would have liked” during the tour of Sri Lanka 18 months ago (he took five wickets at 54.80).

    He has been the leading domestic spinner for the past two seasons and took 11 wickets at 18.64 for Victoria in two shield matches before the Big Bash interlude.

    But he recently confided to Fairfax Media that he was “pretty disappointed” to be overlooked for Agar and suspected the selectors had put a line through his name.

    “I thought maybe my time was starting to get past me, but it hasn’t and I get another opportunity, so hopefully I can make the most of it,” he said.

    Holland said his previous experiences with the national set-up had helped him learn different ways and lines to bowl, but conceded he had never been to South Africa and was unsure what to expect.

    “I haven’t been on too many Test tours so I don’t really know what the best way to go about it is,” he said.

    He hopes to play in some Renegades matches and some red-ball cricket with Victoria, which has shield matches starting on February 8 and 16.

    Australia’s tour begins with a three-day warm-up match against a SA Invitational XI, starting on February 22. The first Test starts on March 1 in Durban.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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