Australia's Shaun Marsh watches his shot during the third Test against Sri Lanka in August.
Australia's Shaun Marsh watches his shot during the third Test against Sri Lanka in August. Eranga Jayawardena

Test side all but picks itself

CRICKET: The first Test of the summer is traditionally the toughest one to pick a squad for but for one reason or another, Rod Marsh and his team of selectors should not have too many tough decisions to make for the opener starting in Perth on Thursday.

The majority of the team picks itself with the only big discussions surrounding who will partner David Warner at the top of the batting order and who will join Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood in the Aussie bowling attack.

One batsman and one seamer will be feeling unlucky when the 12-man squad is announced today after those pushing for the final two spots in the starting XI had a decent start in this week's Sheffield Shield games.

Shaun Marsh and Joe Burns have both shown selectors they are in fine form going into next week's clash with the Proteas.

Marsh, on his return from a hamstring injury picked up in the Matador Cup, scored 73 at the WACA, the venue for next week's Test, while Burns looked in fine form hitting 129 for Queensland at the Gabba.

The left-handed Marsh appears to be the favourite to open up with Warner.

In Australia's last Test on that ill-fated tour of Sri Lanka he scored 130 after replacing Burns.

The WACA is his home ground, so that should suit him and he looked in fine form in the Matador Cup - before his latest injury.

That is the only downside with Marsh. The 33-year-old has been injury-prone during his international career and that has held him back.

Burns, on the other hand, appeared to be the answer as to who would be Warner's long-term partner when he starred in last season's Tests against New Zealand and the West Indies.

His 170 against the Kiwis in Christchurch took him to the No.1 Test ranking.

He did struggle in Sri Lanka but he was not on his own there and his hundred at the Gabba this week did come against a bowling attack containing Test stars Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon.

On the bowling front the battle for the third seamer's spot looks to be a straight fight between Jackson Bird and Peter Siddle.

There are good arguments for both.

Bird admitted he did not have a great Matador Cup campaign but he did start well in the Shield for Tasmania, taking 3-75 in Victoria's first innings.

Siddle was consistent as always when it came to his audition and would provide the control needed against a strong South African batting line-up.

The Victorian's fitness - he has been battling a back problem - looks like counting against him, with Bird favourite to join Starc and Hazlewood in the Australian attack.

The rest of the Australian side would appear to have picked itself.

Possible squad: D Warner, S Marsh, U Khawaja, S Smith, A Voges, M Marsh, P Nevill, M Starc, J Hazlewood, N Lyon, J Bird, P Siddle (12th man).


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