Australia in South Africa 2014 January 29, 2014

Tight fitness deadline for Marsh


Shaun Marsh will be scrubbed from Australia's plans for South Africa unless he can prove his fitness for the tour match that precedes the first Test.

As the national selectors ponder a possible replacement in the event that Marsh does not recover from a calf ailment, ESPNcricinfo has learned that the left-hander will be ruled out of Test calculations if he is unable to present himself fit to play in the four-day warm-up match in Potchefstroom, due to begin on February 5.

The tour schedule is typically tight, as the first Test begins in Pretoria on February 12 before the second follows only three days later. The selectors are understandably reluctant to nurse any player through the vital first week of the trip, leaving Marsh with only a day or two at best to complete his recovery from the injury he sustained in the field during the final ODI against England in Adelaide on Australia Day.

Instead of flying out with the majority of the touring party on Wednesday, Marsh remained in Perth for rehab work, with the Western Australia physio Nick Jones, who is liaising with his national team counterpart Alex Kountouris. Australia's captain Michael Clarke was unsure whether any deadline had been put in place for Marsh or Jackson Bird, who has returned to bowling in Tasmania after complaining of a jarred back, and can be expected to fly out before the end of the week.

"I spoke to the physio yesterday about Jackson, he bowled well yesterday and they wanted to see how he pulled up today and he has to bowl again today," Clarke said. "Shaun was seeing the physio in Western Australia the last conversation I had with Alex [Kountouris] so they're going to see how he goes over the next couple of days I'm sure, and fingers crossed they're both going to be on a plane sooner rather than later to South Africa.

"I don't know how long they're giving both players. Ideally I would like them to be on this plane now, but that's not realistic. You've got to give them every opportunity, they're an important part of our squad, they're two very good players, and I'm positive they'll both come up ok."

Should Marsh be ruled unfit, he is likely to be replaced in the tour party by Phillip Hughes, who narrowly missed selection for the initial squad, rather than the Ashes batsman George Bailey. The selectors have already been forced to replace one player in the original 15, James Faulkner requiring knee surgery and replaced by Moises Henriques.

Australia boast an enviable record in South Africa, having not lost a series on the veldt since reunification. The 1994 and 2011 tours ended in drawn Test series, while the 1997, 2002, 2006 and 2009 tourists all enjoyed away victories. While the current South African side is undisputed as the world's most accomplished, Clarke noted the similarity of conditions in Australia as a source of considerable comfort to his men.

"A lot of teams in Test cricket are having success in their own backyard, but the greatest challenge is to be able to win away from home, so that's what we face right now," Clarke said. "We're playing against a very good opposition ... wicket wise, temperature wise and country wise there's a lot of similarities, so that'll help us become accustomed to conditions. But when you're playing in front of your home fans we've seen the benefit of that this summer and that's obviously going to help South Africa. We've got to be on top of our game."

Clarke was untroubled by the mishmash of cricket played by his touring party in the lead-up to the trip, as some followed their Ashes success with the ODI series against England, others moonlighted in the Twenty20 Big Bash League and still others played the first two days of second XI fixtures for unfamiliar states before their departure.

"It's only two weeks ago we were playing the last Test match, so I think guys have enough Test cricket under their belt now to be ready for this first Test match," Clarke said. "The four-day game will certainly help get any cobwebs out if there are any, but guys have been playing whether it's one-day cricket or the second XI competition.

"Guys have enough cricket under their belt, it's now a matter of adjusting to conditions as soon as we get there and continuing to play the same brand of cricket we've played this summer, with the same intent and the same attitude, that's the key for me."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Graham on January 30, 2014, 10:39 GMT

    Rightarmeverything; I tend to agree with you on Henriques, however see no point in another bowler either go one short or take a back up keeper.

  • Michael on January 30, 2014, 9:07 GMT

    Marsh was picked on a hunch. The way Marsh plays is much more suited to test scricket then Phil Hughes does. If Marsh was fit i think he way of surprised a few people

  • Matthew on January 29, 2014, 23:29 GMT

    @Shaggy076, I take your point on possibly not needing an extra bowler, but I think better to take either a bowler or batsmen, rather than an allrounder who has not been in great form this season. I understand Watson's value as a 5th bowler but if he was injured, I'd rather see him replaced with a batsman and use Smith, Warner and possibly Clarke as part-time spin to cover the 5th bowler option. If there was an allrounder if better form, I'd be happy for them to be included. Nothing against Henriques, I like him as a player and he had a couple of good innings in India, but I don't think his form warrants selection.

  • Harvey on January 29, 2014, 23:13 GMT

    The selectors are understandably reluctant to nurse any player...what about Watson? He is always nursed through everything. As tough as a piece of wet paper. Doolan should play ahead of Marsh, but Hughes should be ahead of both.

    They were going on about Marsh's suitability to South Africa, didnt Hughes score several centuries last visit?

    The selection of Doolan and Marsh (both top order batsmen) suggests that Watson will finally play where he should have been long ago, at 6. Personally, I wouldnt have Watson at all

  • Peter on January 29, 2014, 22:16 GMT

    @RajivSrinivasan Ramasamy. Do away with Smith with a FC ave of 44 (3 centuries in last 6 tests) & Warner with a FC ave of 48 & top runscorer in the recent series & replace with Ferguson, FC average of 37 & Pomersbach, FC ave of 41 & Cosgrove with a FC of 41? So your idea is to replace in form players with players just because oyu happen to like them? Got it, I think. Interesting take on selections. Calling Invers! Does selecting Marsh fall under this category?

  • Satish on January 29, 2014, 11:10 GMT

    So no CL white?OK how about Joe Burns or Maddinson?

  • Graham on January 29, 2014, 8:49 GMT

    @Mitty2; I think Sayers may have a problem he has played club cricket as a batsman only since christmas.@ Rajiv - Smith has scored 3 tons in his last 6 tests that is an outstanding strike rate, Warner averaged above 60 against England. They are picked as purely batsman and not bits and pieces cricketers as you put it. On the subject of Watson he has had his issues seems out of form but also knocked up 2 * 100's and an 80 in his last 6 tests. @Right arm everything; We already have 2 spare bowlers in the squad surely a third is not required. They obviously have a position (Watsons) for an all-rounder and if he was injured or dropped they would like a batsman that can bowl to replace him.

  • Matthew on January 29, 2014, 7:27 GMT

    I know Henriques will mostly likely not play, but what role do they have in mind for him if he does? He would only come is as a 4th seamer, so they must be thinking of him batting at 6 or 7. His batting form is not strong enough for 6 and if they are thinking of him at 7 with Haddin pushed up to 6 again they're crazy - Haddin is more of an asset at 7 it would expose the team against a strong SAf pace attack. Better to have taken an extra bowler - my pick would be Bollinger but several others would also be worthy. Shame for Faulkner to get injured, he is a fine competitor, but likewise what role do they expect of him in the test team? The team is on the up and the selectors are tinkering with the team balance, best to keep it simple.

  • Troy on January 29, 2014, 7:17 GMT

    Marsh was obviously in strong contention for the first test if they want him playing in the warm up match. Someone get Marcus North a plane ticket. He was in smoking first class form recently, and made a century on debut in South Africa. He can slot back into his old number six, or he has been playing as an opener recently, so perhaps drop him at 3 (thats what we do with surplus 'openers' these days isn't it?).

    I realise he is 34 and probably not in the teams long term plans, but neither are Rogers and Haddin. This is a test series against the number 1 team in the world. We should be picking a team to take it right up to them and see just how good we are rather than it being a rude shock for a test debutant - look at the Quiney experiment...

    I think Watson will probably stay at 3 - he did average 40 odd in the ashes, so I guess its his spot for now, although Boof does seem to want to put him back at six like he belongs.

  • Matthew on January 29, 2014, 7:14 GMT

    Hughes obviously left out for reasons other than form, I think he is very unlucky. When he failed in recent tests in England I don't think he did much worse than his teammates, and in his 2nd last test batted with good temperament to be unbeaten on 81 (coming in at no.6) when Agar almost got 100. I think he deserved longer to cement a spot, his potential is undeniable. He also hit two tons last time he was in South Africa. I think Cameron White possibly deserves a shot before Marsh too, looking at his form this season and his experience. .

  • No featured comments at the moment.