Pakistan v Australia Test - Men's
Marsh return adds to selection puzzle
Allrounder bowls competitively for the first time in five months in a positive sign ahead of Pakistan Test series in the UAE next month
10 September 2018, 10:55 AM AEST
The return to the bowling crease of Mitchell Marsh for the first time in more than five months has given Australia's selectors a boost as they prepare to announce their squad for next month's Test tour of the UAE.
Australia A captain Marsh sent down five overs on Sunday on the second day of their match against India A in Bengaluru, the first time he's bowled competitively since undergoing ankle surgery in April.
The 26-year-old scored an unbeaten 113 with the bat, a promising sign ahead of Australia's first Test campaign under Justin Langer, but it was his work with the ball that would have resonated most with the new coach and his selection panel.
The ability of Marsh to make a meaningful contribution with the ball in the two Tests against Pakistan will be decisive in determining the composition of the Test XI; having a genuine pace-bowling option in the top six would allow selectors more flexibility to pick two or even three frontline spinners in conditions that are certain to favour slow bowling.
Marsh said his return to bowling was the culmination of months of meticulous planning.
"I've had five months to prepare for this game so if I wasn't prepared for it I would be pretty annoyed," he said.
"I'm feeling good, not too sore at the moment. Once you start bowling in games, the body seems to tighten up a little bit so maybe I'll be a bit sore tomorrow. But right now I'm feeling really good.
"It was a pretty planned out process from when I had ankle surgery until the day before I left (for India). It was a case of building up my running fitness and my strength and building up over the five months."
With pace spearheads Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins ruled out of the series due to injury, the identity of the fast bowlers who will partner Mitchell Starc in the UAE will be one of the most intriguing talking points when the squad is named this week.
Uncapped speedster Jhye Richardson is a frontrunner while Victoria's Chris Tremain and Queensland duo Michael Neser and Brendan Doggett, who are all with the ‘A’ squad in India, are also in the frame. And veteran Peter Siddle has stormed into contention on the back of his red-hot form for English county champions Essex, where he's taken 37 wickets in seven games at 16.
But if Marsh is fit enough to be a genuine pace option, it would allow selectors to do what they did in Bangladesh last year and pick up to three frontline spinners - likely Nathan Lyon, Jon Holland and Ashton Agar - alongside a sole quick (Starc) in the XI.
Marsh leaked 26 runs from his five overs on Sunday, but said simply bowling again was the most important thing.
"It's purely about getting back into it for me," he said, adding he's restricted to bowling just 15 overs in the match in order to ease back into his comeback.
"I'm not going to push myself too far. We've got a long 12 months ahead of international cricket."
Marsh also praised Tremain, who has taken just one wicket on the first-class leg of the ‘A’ tour so far but has bowled with impressive economy, particularly on Sunday when he conceded just 10 runs from eight tight overs.
No player has taken more wickets than Tremain (129 scalps at an average of 20) in the past three JLT Sheffield Shield seasons, an impressive feat given he plays most of his matches on what has been a lifeless drop-in pitch at the MCG.
Marsh believes the 27-year-old's experience bowling at Victoria's home ground has made him an effective option in the subcontinent.
"Trem has been really impressive over here," Marsh said.
"His game is simple; he bowls at the stumps, certainly over here, and he plays a lot at the MCG so these sorts of wickets certainly suit his bowling.
"He's the sort of bloke who will do anything the captain wants him to do and he's very skilful."
Tremain and Marsh are expected to bowl again on Monday after India A moved to 3-223 at stumps on day two, trailing by 123 runs.