Australia v South Africa Tests

Cautious Marsh eyes permanent Test spot

Left-hander opts out of South Africa tour as he targets more consistent performances in Test cricket

Cricket Network

18 September 2016, 10:26 AM AEST

Shaun Marsh says he's taken a conservative approach to his broken finger in a bid to be at full fitness when his quest to earn a permanent Test spot begins in earnest this summer.

Marsh, who has scored centuries in each of his past two Tests, was last week ruled out of the upcoming Qantas Tour of South Africa due to a finger injury he picked up in Sri Lanka earlier this month.

The Western Australian said he considered risking further damage to the digit by taking part in the five-match one-day international series against the Proteas, starting on September 30.

But having been in and out of Australia's Test side over the past two years, Marsh knows his last-start century against Sri Lanka gives him no guarantees heading into the Test summer against South Africa and Pakistan.

Marsh marks Test return with a century

"I was lucky enough to get another opportunity in Sri Lanka and do well, so hopefully that puts me in good stead leading into the summer," Marsh, who has played just nine of Australia's 23 Tests in the past two years, told News Ltd.

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"I’m hungry to keep being really consistent in Test cricket now, which I probably haven’t been in my career to date.

"But to wait for my opportunity and finally get back in the Test team, and then break a finger, which I’ve never done before ... it’s been extremely frustrating.

"I was hoping to go to South Africa, and I was sort of happy to go over there and play with risk.

"We thought the smart decision was to take a few extra weeks and give the finger the full six weeks that it needs to make sure it’s 100 per cent ahead of the summer."

The turbulent end to Australia's recent Test defeat in Sri Lanka means there are several question marks over the make-up of the batting line-up for the coming summer.

Marsh was recalled for the final Test of the series and took full advantage of his opportunity, peeling off a brilliant 130 in Colombo to push his Test average in Asia to 78.

Usman Khawaja and Joe Burns, who both thrived at the top of the order last summer, were axed for that match after lean returns in the first two Tests but will be desperate to regain their places for the home summer.

Quick Single: Burns' belief a bonus in comeback

And Marsh knows as well as anyone that a century in his last Test does not necessarily assure him retention in the side, having been left out for the Boxing Day Test last summer despite scoring a Test-best 182 in Hobart just two weeks earlier.

Marsh makes Test best 182

But former Test opener Chris Rogers says the left-hander will be hard to leave out for the opening Test against the Proteas, which starts on November 3.

"I like Joe Burns and have a lot of time for him, but Shaun (Marsh), in his last two Test matches he's got hundreds," Rogers told last week.

Quick Single: Rogers casts an eye over Test openers

"To not get picked would be very difficult for him (Marsh), particularly with the Indian tour looming where you'd back him to be one of the first picked now.

"Maybe he's going to be irresistible (to select), although I wouldn't discount what Joe's got to offer.

"He's still has the ability to learn and get better and get away from those tours and think about where he went wrong.

"But perhaps maybe in this point in time Shaun might just edge it over Joe."

A six-week recovery period for Marsh would rule him out of the Matador One-Day Cup on October 1-23, but he will likely return for Western Australia's Sheffield Shield opener against South Australia at the WACA Ground from October 25.

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