Steve Smith and David Warner will both be available for week one of the BBL finals after a change in Australia's plans for the upcoming Test tour of India. The likes of Smith, Warner, Usman Khawaja and Marnus Labuchagne had been expected to leave for India at the end of the BBL regular season.
However the Test squad won't fly out until January 31, meaning Smith and co will be available to play in the opening week of the finals should their teams make it. The BBL confirmed to AAP on Monday that as many as 11 Test players could feature in week one of the finals.
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With three days left in the regular season, only the Perth Scorchers and Sydney Sixers have sealed their spots in the BBL finals. That means Smith, Nathan Lyon and Lance Morris will feature in week one.
The Sydney Thunder, Adelaide Strikers and Brisbane Heat can all still make it, meaning Warner (Thunder), Travis Head and Alex Carey (Strikers), Labuschagne, Khawaja and Matt Renshaw (Heat) could be playing the finals as well. The news is a particularly big boost for the Strikers, with Smith blasting back-to-back centuries in the last two games.
The prolific Test batter has scored 262 runs in just three games this season at the phenomenal average of 131. After his knock of 125 not out against the Thunder on Saturday night, Smith had the equal-most sixes in the competition despite playing nine games less than his rivals.
The later departure to India means Australia won't play a tour game on the subcontinent ahead of the four-Test series. Former captain Michael Clarke was gobsmacked by the news, labelling it "ridiculous" in his return to Sydney breakfast radio on Monday.
But the Test squad will host a special training clinic for their spinners, meaning Ashton Agar (Strikers) and Todd Murphy (Strikers) won't be available for the BBL finals. Mitch Swepson of the Heat and Melbourne Renegades batter Peter Handscomb - known for his ability to play spin - will also take part in the clinic and would potentially be free for 'the eliminator' - played between the fourth and fifth-placed teams. But a scheduling conflict means Swepson and Handscomb will only suit up in 'the knockout' if it is hosted by the Thunder.
Steve Smith dismisses injury fears ahead of India tour
A slight concern for the Test team would be niggling injuries for Smith and Lyon. Smith revealed he played in the Sixers' win over the Thunder with back spasms and could hardly run towards the end of the game.
"I just had some spasming this afternoon," Smith said after the match in which he made the fifth-highest score in BBL history. "I struggle to get upright. I can bend (forwards) all right but getting into an extension is not ideal. It probably helped me in my batting, kept me a bit lower. It's a bit stiff but hopefully I pull up okay."
Lyon has missed the past two games with knee soreness after playing all six matches in the Test summer against the West Indies and South Africa. Smith said about his teammate: "I'm pretty certain we'll be all right."
The first Test against India starts on February 9, before three more matches. Australia haven't won a Test series in India since 2004.
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