South Africa v Australia, 1st Test, Cape Town, 2nd day November 10, 2011

Marsh in doubt for second Test

Michael Clarke has conceded that Shaun Marsh is in doubt for the second Test in Johannesburg after he struggled with a stiff back on the first two days in Cape Town. Marsh did not field on the second day and batted at No.10, clearly hampered as he walked to the crease and faced his only two deliveries, including a delivery that kept low and trapped him lbw.

The problem arose on Wednesday during the latter stages of Marsh's first-innings 44, and the issue worsened on Thursday. The Wanderers Test starts in a week and Clarke, as a man who has suffered serious back problems himself over the years, said the most important thing was to ensure Marsh was not forced to play if he was not quite right.

"I'm a little nervous, no doubt," Clarke said after play on Thursday. "I know the feeling when you do your back, it's always a couple of days of mending time and treatment to try and get it right. I'm confident if he does get it right in this period before the second Test then he'll be fine to play.

"But I need to trust the judgment of Alex Kountouris, our physio, who has had a lot of experience on backs, unfortunately. Shaun knows his body pretty well. He's a big player for us, he's in all three forms of the game. He's a wonderful guy with a lot of talent, so I want to make sure we make the right decision."

Should Marsh be unavailable for the Johannesburg Test, it would mean a call-up for Usman Khawaja, the back-up batsman in the squad. While Khawaja is a fine prospect, Marsh has been one of the shining lights for Australia during their past three Tests.

He scored a century on debut in Pallekele in September and made 81 in his second Test, before starting his South African trip with a pair of half-centuries in the tour match in Potchefstroom last week. In the first innings in Cape Town, he was the only one of Australia's specialist batsmen who showed the centurion Clarke any support.

Marsh has had ongoing back issues throughout his career. He was ruled out of the third ODI against Sri Lanka last November and the Australia A game against England that followed due to back trouble, and a similar problem also ruled him out of the tour of New Zealand early last year.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo