Taking on South Africa’s fearsome fast bowling attack in their own conditions could be the biggest challenge of Mitchell Marsh’s career, but the allrounder says facing Australia’s hostile pace battery in the nets is the ideal preparation.
Australia had their first full training session at the Wanderers on Monday and while the batsmen had the chance to hit a few throwdowns on Sunday in Benoni, yesterday they had to face the fire and brimstone of the visiting speedsters.
The five-pronged pace unit of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, Chadd Sayers and Jhye Richardson unleashed at practice in the afternoon and Marsh was one of the batsmen on the receiving end.
Dealing with express pace, swing and seam movement is what the 26-year-old and his batting comrades can expect from a Proteas attack featuring veterans Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel, as well as boom quick Kagiso Rabada.
If the preceding Test series between South Africa and India is anything to go by, the four-Test Qantas Tour of South Africa could be a shootout between perhaps the two-best fast-bowling attacks on the planet.
But having faced the pace of Cummins, swing of Starc and surgical accuracy of Hazlewood at training, Marsh says he’s ready for what’s about to come his way from the Proteas, starting in the first Test at Kingsmead from March 1.
“I feel very lucky as a batsman to be able to face a world-class attack every time I go into the nets,” Marsh told cricket.com.au in Johannesburg on Monday.
“I use every net session as an opportunity to try and get better against express bowling.
“And we’re going to face a similar attack in South Africa. It’s great practice.”
Marsh said he’s “absolutely” relishing the prospect of facing Rabada and co. this series.
“As any sort of cricketer you want to challenge yourself against the best,” Marsh said.
“These guys (South Africa) probably have one of the best attacks in the world.
“I’m extremely excited about it. It’s a great opportunity to further on a great summer we had in Australia.”
Fortunately for Marsh, he heads into the series in career-best form.
The right-hander celebrated his Test recall with a maiden Ashes century – a commanding 181 – on his home ground in Perth this summer, then dug in to face 166 deliveries for just 29 to ensure a draw in the following match in Melbourne.
He finished the Magellan Ashes with his second Test century, a dominant 101 at the Sydney Cricket Ground, to deliver on the potential he had promised since his first-class debut as an 18-year-old in 2009.
“I’ve certainly taken a lot of confidence out of the summer,” Marsh said.
“It was just awesome to have worked so hard in the off-season and to get a get a few rewards.
“I understand this is a totally different series, we start again, we start from ball one. It’s going to be a great series.”
Before Australia and the Proteas lock horns in Durban, the tourists have a three-day tour match in Benoni against a South Africa Invitational XI starting Thursday.
“The main thing is to make sure we’re ready to go for that first Test,” he said.
“Doing whatever we can, however much each individual needs to be prepared for Durban.
“We’ve got a nine-day preparation now and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Qantas tour of South Africa
Australia squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine, Jhye Richardson, Chadd Sayers, Mitchell Starc.
Warm-up match v SA Invitational XI, Sahara Park, Benoni, Feb 22-24
First Test Kingsmead, Durban, March 1-5
Second Test St George's Park, Port Elizabeth, March 9-13
Third Test Newlands, Cape Town, March 22-26
Fourth Test Wanderers, Johannesburg, March 30-April 3