Marsh return puts heat on Handscomb


Marsh feels for a struggling HandscombMitchell Marsh, who is in line to replace Peter Handscomb in Australia’s XI in the Perth Test, weighs in on the scrutiny faced by the middle-order batsman due to his low scores in the first two Tests
Australia’s coach Darren Lehmann has hinted strongly at Mitchell Marsh’s likely inclusion for the final Ashes Test to be played at the WACA Ground, leaving Peter Handscomb very much in the gun as far as his immediate international future is concerned.
Handscomb, who has struggled for runs and technical consistency against the plans and accuracy of England’s James Anderson in particular, may find himself left out in favour of Marsh for reasons of team balance. A fifth bowling option is thought to be necessary on what has this season been an unforgiving Perth surface for bowlers.
While Nathan Lyon has performed commendably in the first two Tests as both an attacking and holding option, soaking up overs to keep Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins fresh, the likely WACA surface, Marsh’s return to the bowling crease and Handscomb’s current malaise all point towards a change being made.
“We’ve got all the reports back and JL [Western Australia coach Justin Langer] has been really impressed with him,” Lehmann said in Perth as the Australian team assembled. “He’s surprised by bowling a couple of games ago, he surprised us as well to be perfectly honest. His batting has been exceptional all summer and he’s led from the front as captain. He deserves his chance.
“Other people might be unlucky to miss out but Mitchell fills the role we need for this particular Test match. As a batter he was in some good form. But we needed his bowling as well. Now he’s bowling, we can consider him.”
Much as the captain Steven Smith had factored preservation of the bowlers in his decision not to enforce the follow on against England in Adelaide, Lehmann said the team composition for Perth would take into account the pitch, weather and the freshness of the pace bowlers. Jackson Bird is the other bowling member of the squad.
“It depends on the wickets, we’ll just wait and see. They said it’s going to have some pace and bounce in it, a bit like the old WACA,” Lehmann said. “It’s pretty hot this week so we’ll have a better idea probably on Tuesday/Wednesday of what we’re going to go with.
“We just want to have the ability to get 20 wickets. So if the three and Nathan can do that so be it. If we decide to go with an extra one it would be for that reason. You’d love to be able to make them available for all Test matches and all one-dayers. End of the day we just don’t know how they’re going to travel. At the moment our focus is just this game, so we can’t look too far ahead or behind.”

England’s recent disciplinary issues, the latest the suspension of Ben Duckett for pouring a drink over the head of Anderson at the same Perth bar where Jonny Bairstow headbutted Cameron Bancroft, were not a source of mirth for Lehmann, who said it was vital that his players did not underestimate the tourists despite the current impression of off-field chaos.