Australia leave out Mitch Marsh for series opener

Mitch Marsh

Adelaide: Victoria opener Marcus Harris will make his Test debut while Mitchell Marsh will make way for middle-order batsman Peter Handscomb in the first Test against India, Australia skipper Tim Paine said here on Wednesday.

Paine told reporters on the eve of the match that Harris will open the batting alongside Victoria teammate Aaron Finch, according to a Cricket Australia report.

Handscomb will bat at No.5 and the hosts will thus enter the first Test with four specialist bowlers – Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon.

Explaining Marsh’s omission, Paine said: “We know he’s good enough to be a great all-rounder at Test level but hasn’t quite put it together at Test level yet.

“As this series wears on and you get to places where the wicket is a bit flatter and conditions a bit warmer and bowlers a little more tired, he might have more of a role to play.

“We’ll send him back to Shield, get some more cricket under his belt knowing at some stage we’re probably going to need him. The (Adelaide Oval) wicket over the last few years here has given enough throughout the game. We’ve got a lot of confidence in Nathan Lyon bowling the overs we need and all three of our quicks are going in very fresh,” he added.

Australia coach Justin Langer, meanwhile, said India “are smelling blood” and are confident of winning their first Test series ever in Australia.

“You sense they’re smelling blood,” Langer was quoted as saying by SEN’s Whateley.

“Just like the great Australian cricket team of 2001 felt and we just fell short (of winning in India) and we were able to (win in) 2004. You sense these moments. I’m sensing India feel that,” the coach added.

“They’re a good team and they’ve got a couple of great players and we will show them great respect. They haven’t had great success in Australia in the past, as Australia haven’t had in India. They’ll also be under great pressure, I think,” Langer said.

Paine also said that he wants to regain the respect lost during the ball tampering scandal and feels that Test cricket is a platform to not only win games but also correct areas which needs attention.

Ahead of their first Test against India, Paine said the Aussies, still recovering from the ball-tampering scandal, has identified the areas that needed improvements.

“Both (winning matches and hearts). That’s what we are here for, we play Test cricket to win, there is no doubt about that and clearly we’ve realised we needed to do some work in some areas. Gaining the respect of our country is as high a priority as is winning,” the wicketkeeper-batsman said at the pre-match press conference.

“I just had an interview with Ricky Ponting and we went through the names of Australian Test captains over the years so it is a little bit daunting to be in a bracket with some of those guys.

“At the same time I’m trying to keep it as simple as I can. I’m hugely honoured to be captain of Australia but I am not letting it weigh me down too much,” he added.

Paine expressed satisfaction at the recalling of Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins after the pair missed the Pakistan series in the UAE.

“Having Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins back in as well is going to be different. The style of play in Australia compared to the UAE is completely different…We are going to go about it the same way we did over there, it’s just going to be tactically slightly different,” he said.

The hosts will go into the first rubber with four bowlers — pace spearhead Mitchell Starc and off-spinner Nathan Lyon besides Hazlewood and Cummins — and Paine said they are fresh and ready to go.

“They got through the Ashes last year I thought and bowled a hell of a lot of overs. So, they are fresh and ready to go. They have had a great preparation and are ready to go.

“They are fine to go. They will be bowling big overs if need be, and they are totally comfortable with that,” he said.

On the pitch at the Adelaide Oval which has a top layering of green grass, Paine said, “The quicks are going to have to bowl a bit more and we have full faith that Nathan Lyon can do the job in any conditions. He’s shown that over the last few years.

“Travis Head bowls some handy off spinners so we have options there but we’ll be backing our bowlers,” he said.

Quizzed about targeting India’s lone spinner R Ashwin in this match, he replied the game-plan is going to be quite similar for even the Indian batsmen.

“I’m sure there will be opportunities at times when we can hopefully put their spinners under pressure and try to put some big overs into their fast bowlers.

“It is going to be no different for them; they are going to see at times if they can attack Lyon and get on top of him…so it is going to be a real chess match in that regard,” Paine added.