Hughes replaces injured Marsh
Phillip Hughes has been given another chance in Australia's Test squad after Shaun Marsh failed to convince the selectors he would recover from his calf injury in time for the warm-up game in South Africa.
The inclusion of Marsh was the most controversial selection in Australia's original 15-man squad for the three-Test tour, given his lack of first-class runs this summer and his poor red-ball record since he was dropped from the Test team two years ago. Hughes appeared especially unfortunate not to be granted a place on the trip after scoring three Sheffield Shield hundreds in five games this season.
However, Marsh picked up a calf injury during the final ODI against England in Adelaide on Australia Day and he was held back from departing with the rest of the Test squad so his fitness could be assessed. The only tour match before the first Test will begin in Potchefstroom on Wednesday and the selectors were unwilling to take Marsh if his fitness could not be guaranteed for that game.
"As Shaun Marsh's calf injury has not improved as much as required over the past four days he has been withdrawn from the Test Squad for the tour of South Africa," the national selector John Inverarity said. "Phillip Hughes had been placed on standby and now comes into the Test squad as a replacement for Shaun. Phillip will head to South Africa as soon as possible."
Hughes now has the opportunity to press his claims for a Test recall with Alex Doolan his main rival for the place in the top six that has become available after the axing of George Bailey. However, it is unclear whether the vacant spot will be at No.3 or at No.6. Initially it seemed that Shane Watson might move down to No.6 but the captain Michael Clarke said before flying to South Africa he wanted Watson to remain at first drop.
Both Hughes and Doolan are considered top order players, although Hughes has been used at No.6 as well as Nos.3 and 4 in the Test team over the past year. He was dropped from the side following the heavy loss in the Ashes Test at Lord's in July, a match in which he managed only 1 in each innings, although in the previous Test at Trent Bridge he had scored a mature 81 not out that was overshadowed by Ashton Agar's near century.
Since being axed in July, Hughes has made 671 first-class runs at the average of 61.00 from 11 innings, including a double-century and two other hundreds this Sheffield Shield season. Marsh, by comparison, had managed only 675 first-class runs at 25.00 since his last Test in January 2012, and appeared to have been selected based largely on his form in the shorter formats.
South Africa has been a productive country for Hughes, who scored two centuries in his second Test in Durban on the 2009 tour and also made 88 at the Wanderers on Australia's most recent trip there in 2011. However, Hughes has never seemed far from the axe and his demotion after the Lord's Test was the third time in his 26-Test career he had been dropped following an extended run in the side.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here