Magellan Ashes 2017-18

Stats shows why Marsh is needed

Recent batting statistics at the WACA underline why Australia might need a fifth bowler

Martin Smith

7 December 2017, 06:35 PM AEST

The WACA Ground's new reputation as a batting paradise has brought allrounder Mitchell Marsh to the cusp of a Test return for the third Magellan Ashes Test in Perth next week.

Once regarded as home to one of the fastest and bounciest pitches in world cricket, the WACA Ground has been a haven for batsmen in the past three years, which has convinced selectors an extra pace-bowling option might be needed for the last ever Ashes Test at the venue, starting next Thursday.

Watch all 10 England wickets to fall

Australia's four-man bowling attack will enjoy an eight-day break between Tests, but three matches in three-and-a-half weeks to finish the series and the heavy workload they will likely need to carry in Perth has brought the younger Marsh brother back into the frame.

The past three Tests in Perth - against South Africa in 2016, New Zealand in 2015 and England in 2013 - have been dominated by batsmen; each completed innings has lasted an average of 108 overs compared to an average of 71 overs per innings in the previous three Tests at the venue.

The run fest against the Black Caps two years ago, when Ross Taylor (290) and David Warner (253) were among six individual century-makers, even helped to push paceman Mitchell Johnson into a surprise retirement announcement.

Taylor's 112-year-old record-breaking knock

And the early-season JLT Sheffield Shield results at the WACA have done little to reverse that trend.

After a low-scoring day-night clash with a pink ball to open the season, the two red-ball matches there have seen, on average, 351 runs scored in each innings in 90 overs at a run rate of just under four an over.

Cameron Bancroft's unbeaten double-century against South Australia three weeks ago, which led to his Test debut in Brisbane, over-shadowed the fact that the Redbacks won that match by chasing down 324 on the final day in just 93.4 overs and for the loss of only five wickets.

Redbacks rollick to final-day win

And WA's match against Queensland last week ended in a thrilling draw, with the Bulls scoring 7-290 in just 59 overs on the final day to fall just short of victory.

High-scoring fourth innings have been a recent trend in Test matches at the WACA, too; batting last, Australia scored 361 in 119 overs against South Africa last year and England managed 353 in 103.2 overs there in 2013. Bat so dominated ball in the Test against the Kiwis two years ago that the tourists only got through 28 overs in the fourth innings before the match was declared a draw.

The lack of assistance for the bowlers late in those matches might be the decisive factor in whether or not Marsh gets a game next week.

Thriller at the WACA goes down to the final over

"They're just handy when you have that long second innings more so than not, and if you get an injury during the game," coach and selector Darren Lehmann after the first-Test win in Brisbane when asked about a fifth-bowling option.

"At the moment it's OK (without one), but you certainly look at it."

On Thursday, Lehmann added a decision on whether or not Marsh plays in Perth will likely be made the day before the game.

"It really depends on the wicket," Lehmann told 5AA.

"It's been a little bit slower in the past few years and if it's a good wicket, you probably need the extra bowler.

"But we'll sum it up. It's very hard to change a winning side. But we've got to work out what's the best way to get 20 wickets."

Marsh himself concedes his chances of a recall will depend on how Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins pull up after bowling through back-to-back Tests to start the summer.

I didn't think it would happen this soon: Marsh

"As an allrounder in the Australian team with our bowling attack, I'm not going to be bowling 30-40 overs per game," Marsh said on Thursday.

"I'm obviously no guarantee to play in Perth. It'll all depend on how the bowlers pull up. They've got eight days off so hopefully they pull up well, but we'll have to wait and see."

2017-18 International Fixtures

Magellan Ashes Series

Australia Test squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine (wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird.

England Test squad: Joe Root (c), James Anderson (vc), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Mason Crane, Tom Curran, Ben Foakes, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ben Stokes, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Chris Woakes.

First Test Australia won by 10 wickets. Scorecard

Second Test Australia won by 120 runs (Day-Night). Scorecard

Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Tickets

Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Tickets

Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Tickets

Gillette ODI Series v England

First ODI MCG, January 14. Tickets

Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Tickets

Third ODI SCG, January 21. Tickets

Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Tickets

Fifth ODI Perth Stadium, January 28. Tickets

Prime Minister's XI

PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Tickets

Gillette T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series

First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Tickets

Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Tickets

Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Tickets

Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 14

Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16

Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21