'Tight call' between Renshaw and Khawaja for opening slot

Usman Khawaja opened the batting in David Warner's absence Getty Images

A decision between Matt Renshaw and Usman Khawaja as David Warner's opening partner looms as Australia's only major selection question-mark ahead of the first Test against India in Pune later this week.

Australia's coach, Darren Lehmann, said that Shaun Marsh would join captain Steven Smith in the No. 3 and 4 positions after both scored hundreds in the tour match in Mumbai, but it was yet to be decided who would join Warner at the top. Renshaw was preferred for the role in the tour game against India A, but managed only 11 and 10 in the two innings.

However, he is coming off 184 in his most recent Test, against Pakistan in Sydney, and the Mumbai match was his maiden appearance in first-class cricket in Asian conditions. Khawaja also enjoyed a productive home summer, but his disappointing record in Asia previously - including when he was dropped mid-tour in Sri Lanka last year - could yet weigh against him.

"It's a tight call between probably him and Usman, I would think," Lehmann said of Renshaw. "We'll have to make that decision when we get closer to the Test. We're pretty settled on what we want, but ... we need to wait until we get there and see the wicket."

Peter Handscomb, who made 45 and 37 in the tour match, is expected to slot in at No. 5, followed by allrounder Mitchell Marsh, who is set to return to the Test side for the first time since the opening Test of the home summer against South Africa in Perth. Marsh was dropped after that Test, but the strength of his bowling was enough to earn him a recall for the India tour, and 75 in the tour game did his cause no harm.

"He batted really well for us in Sri Lanka to be fair, he was one of our better batters," Lehmann said of Mitchell Marsh. "We've been impressed with way he plays spin bowling."

His inclusion would mean a return for the Marsh brothers - Shaun has likewise not played a Test since Perth, although in his case that was due to a broken finger that ultimately allowed Renshaw to establish himself as Warner's opening partner. Such has been the interrupted nature of Shaun Marsh's career recently that his past six Tests have all come in different series.

However, when called upon in his most recent matches he has performed: in his past three Tests he has made 182 against West Indies in Hobart in December 2015, 130 against Sri Lanka in Colombo last August, and then 63 in the first innings against South Africa in Perth. Lehmann said Marsh was not in the mix to open, but would slot in somewhere in the middle.

"Renshaw and Usman and Warner - they would open, so I'd imagine that Smith and Marsh would float between No. 3 and 4," Lehmann said.

Australia's attack is likely to be made up of Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlwood, both of whom were rested from the India A match, with Mitchell Marsh as the third fast bowler and Nathan Lyon and Steve O'Keefe as the two spinners. Lyon and O'Keefe claimed four and three wickets respectively in the Mumbai game, although their economy rates - 5.61 for Lyon and 4.20 for O'Keefe - were high.

"I'm pleased with the way the spinners are going," Lehmann said. "It's going to be a challenge bowling here, but they're on the right path."

Likely Australia XI 1 David Warner, 2 Matt Renshaw/Usman Khawaja, 3 Steven Smith (capt), 4 Shaun Marsh, 5 Peter Handscomb, 6 Mitchell Marsh, 7 Matthew Wade (wk), 8 Mitchell Starc, 9 Steve O'Keefe, 10 Josh Hazlewood, 11 Nathan Lyon.