South Africa v Australia, 1st Test, Centurion February 11, 2014

Marsh, Doolan to tip out Hughes

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Australia are set to go with hunches over hundreds against South Africa, anointing Alex Doolan for his Test debut at No. 3 while also shaping up to recall Shaun Marsh despite his minimal preparation for the task at hand.

The national selector John Inverarity was seen offering a consoling word and pat on the back to Phillip Hughes in the nets as the tourists' final training session wound down, while the captain Michael Clarke had also hinted strongly at Doolan's inclusion.

"You guys can work out for yourselves whether Alex is going to play or not," Clarke said. "I can't tell you where he's going to bat. I haven't got the 11 players yet from the selectors, so I don't think it'd be fair for me to talk about individual players - who's in, who's out."

While Hughes has by far the best first-class record of the fringe batsmen and plenty of experience in South Africa, he only made the trip when Marsh was indisposed due to a calf problem. He would have remained in Western Australia if not for a calf strain to Shane Watson, but that injury allowed Marsh to return.

The tour selectors Darren Lehmann and Inverarity have been unable to resist Marsh's flowing form in the nets, even if he is still dealing with jetlag that Clarke admitted had taken numerous players far longer to get over than they had initially expected. Doolan has also swayed team observers by the purity of his stroke production and capacity to hit good balls to the boundary, the strong impression of his easy style not sufficiently undermined by a lack of substantial runs in recent months.

Marsh and Doolan have only two first-class hundreds between them this summer, though the latter's was an admittedly commanding fourth innings performance against a strong New South Wales to help Tasmania chase down a vexing target. Hughes meanwhile has made three Sheffield Shield centuries this summer, but there is a strong belief that Marsh and Doolan will be able to step up and counter-attack against South Africa's vaunted pace attack.

The selectors have long taken the view that there is more to choosing teams than simply picking the top players on the national aggregates. It is a belief they have clung to even after watching the opener Chris Rogers replicate his methodical run-making in Tests after doing so for years in first-class matches without recognition, largely as a result of an apparently ungainly style.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Roshan_P on February 14, 2014, 19:39 GMT

    Well it seems as though the selection of these two batsmen have paid off. After everyone saying it was a bad decision, and even I was praying for Hughes' return, it looks as though he will be shunted out of the team again. In my opinion, dropping Watson and Bailey (even if Watson was dropped because of an injury) was a good thing for Australia as those two are limted-overs batsmen and definitely not solid enough to be Test match batsmen. Bailey's failure against a struggling England attack shows this, and I don't believe Watson has the potential to be a solid No. 3. I was gunning for a Hughes return, but it looks as if that won't happen for a while. Once again he will be shunted out because other batsmen are prospering, but I think if he is given a few matches at No. 3 then he can prove to the selectors he is worthy of a place.

  • Barnesy4444 on February 12, 2014, 12:16 GMT

    Adam Griffin is 100% correct. Hughes is by far the best batsman not in the side. Marsh barely deserves to be playing for his state and Doolan is lucky to be in SAf at all.

  • PutMarshyOn on February 12, 2014, 10:20 GMT

    Marsh's FC record is quite staggeringly bad for someone so highly regarded by the selectors. Not only that - he is injured frequently enough as well.

    Ah, so there's the way to the selectors heart! Base a career around under-achievement and familiarity with the physio. Works for Watto.

  • StarveTheLizard on February 12, 2014, 10:16 GMT

    There is no way the selectors would not play Lyon. Even before Watson dropped out, he was a definite shoe-in. With Watson out, they have to play him. The last batch of selectors might have. You may recall that they didn't even select a spinner for Adelaide! I think Hughes would have made a better choice than Marsh. Its still better than the last lot would have concocted.

  • ModernUmpiresPlz on February 12, 2014, 7:35 GMT

    @disco_bob Yeah I absolutely agree. Even if the pitch is a complete green top I would still play Lyon, he's probably the biggest positive Australia have over the SA team as we're either breaking even (fast bowling) or way behind (batting) in every other department. If Pattinson plays it will be one of the worst selections I've ever seen. He is in terrible form, nowhere near test match bowling, and he has no place in the team with the current pace attack. Harris is more consistent and just as quick and does more with the ball, Johnson is faster and just as accurate. All Pattinson can do in SA is help the SA batsman by being fodder. There's a comment from me somewhere where I said I won't watch if Pattinson takes Lyon's place.

  • dummy4fb on February 12, 2014, 6:46 GMT

    To me this is Matt Hayden all over again. He'd get in the team, look ugly for a while and get dropped, go back to state cricket and score a gaziilion runs again until he got his place back. Eventually it all worked out for him but for me the selectors haven't learned their lesson. We need to stop picking players based on a gut feel or a subjective judgement that they are "technically better". At the end of the day the only thing that matters is runs. Hughes has done it on a state level and for the national team. These perceived weaknesses or flaws in his game just seem irrelevant to me.

  • jabiru48 on February 12, 2014, 6:28 GMT

    IMHO there are 5 players who deserve to be in the picture for a Test spot- alphabetically Doolan, Ferguson,Henriques, Hughes & Marsh. Age in order 28,29,27, 25 & 30. Eye to the future Hughes! 1st class career averages 37.92, 36.99, 31.78 45.54 & 35.02 Over their career Hughes. This year 38.36 51.00 61.00 33.66 & 34.37 Form Hughes and Ferguson (Redbacks are top). Where is the logic of picking a 30yo with worst batting averages (son of a teammate of the Chariman of selectors) over Hughes and perhaps even Ferguson over Doolan (I forgot the century against a 2nd rate NSW attack). This selection committee is starting to go away from the form guide.

  • disco_bob on February 12, 2014, 5:56 GMT

    Now Clarke intimates that Australia might play four quicks and dump Lyon. I hope that's just to keep SA guessing. But now that Bailey was dumped, unnecessarily in my opinion I am fearful that Lyon may really be dropped, it seems barely believable but it seemed that way in India, and then again for the first two England Ashes fixtures. If they do dump Lyon it will be 3-0 or 2-0 (if it rains) to SA no doubt.

  • shetto on February 12, 2014, 4:25 GMT

    If Hughes is left out - yet another bad selection from the selectors - Not sure what has got into their heads - I thought it would have been easier to have gone with someone who is inform and scoring centuries- to continue that good run against bowlers he knows how to score against. Rather than ask two batsmen for a miraculous turn around in their form against the best bowlers in the world, which they are yet to prove themselves against.

  • landl47 on February 12, 2014, 4:11 GMT

    Marsh is 30, Doolan is 28. Marsh has a FC average of 35.02, Doolan's is 37.92. Marsh has 8 FC centuries, Doolan has 6.

    The fact that these two are anywhere near test selection tells you all you need to know about Australia's depth. They're journeyman FC cricketers, like Cowan only not as successful.

    Aus played wonderfully well against England, and part of their success came from the fact that these two weren't in the side. Bailey should feel himself very hard done by; he's not a great FC cricketer, but he's at least as good as either Marsh or Doolan, is an excellent fielder and a big asset in the change room.

    If Australia's batting line-up has both Marsh and Doolan in it, look out, Australia's in trouble.

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