By Ian Ransom
ADELAIDE (Reuters) – Australia vice-captain and all-rounder Mitchell Marsh has been dropped for the first test against India as selectors backed the team’s three specialist seamers to bowl a full workload at Adelaide Oval.
Marsh’s place in the side for the series-opener, which starts on Thursday, has been taken by middle order batsman Peter Handscomb, recalled for the first time since the tour of South Africa in March and April.
Despite scoring a century for Sheffield Shield side Western Australia in the leadup, Marsh pays the price for a poor tour of the United Arab Emirates where he managed 30 runs from four innings with the bat against Pakistan and two wickets at the cost of almost 100 runs with the ball.
“Mitch Marsh probably hasn’t been as consistent as he would like and we would like,” captain Tim Paine told reporters at Adelaide Oval on Wednesday, confirming that Handscomb would bat fifth in the order with local favourite Travis Head at six.
“We know he’s good enough to be a genuine all-rounder at test level.
“The quicks are going to have a bowl a bit more and we have full faith that Nathan Lyon can do the job.”
Paine confirmed Marcus Harris would make his test debut and open the batting with Aaron Finch in the opener of the four-match series, Australia’s first home test since Steve Smith and David Warner were banned over the Newlands ball-tampering scandal.
“He’s been a really consistent player for the last three years and thoroughly deserves the opportunity,” Paine said of Harris.
“He’s an aggressive little player, he’ll play his shots but he’s also improved his defence.”
Australia coach Justin Langer earlier confirmed that batsman Usman Khawaja would take his place in the side despite the arrest of his brother on charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice and forgery on Tuesday.
“We’re keeping an eye on ‘Uzzie’, obviously it was a little bit of a shock for him yesterday,” Langer said on SEN radio.
“A lot of cricketers say this, but the actual sanctuary is out in the middle so while there’s a lot going on in his personal life, we’re all around him to support him.
“He’ll be as cool and calm as usual out in the middle.”
With a scorching 39 degrees Celsius forecast for Adelaide on Thursday, Paine said Australia would be inclined to bat first if he won the toss against counterpart Virat Kohli.
“You want to bat on days when it’s 40 degrees,” said the wicketkeeper.
“Normally, Australian teams like to bat first.”
Team – Aaron Finch, Marcus Harris, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Travis Head, Tim Paine (captain), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon.
(Additional reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Ken Ferris/Peter Rutherford)