Marsh could be left high and dry
CRICKET: Captain Steve Smith has forecast another change to Australia's Test line-up - and a lot of it could have to do with the weather in Hobart.
The Aussies take on South Africa in the second Test at Blundstone Arena starting tomorrow morning with dark clouds hovering over all-rounder Mitch Marsh in more ways than one.
Australia has already been forced to make two changes to its XI that suffered a 177-run loss to the Proteas in Perth, with opening batsman Joe Burns replacing Shaun Marsh (broken finger) and paceman Joe Mennie in for his debut at the expense of Peter Siddle (back).
Suffering a slight hamstring strain, struggling middle-order batsman Adam Voges passed a fitness test, but must still be given the all-clear to play by Australian selectors.
That said, it is Marsh who appears most likely to make way if one-time limited-overs specialist Callum Ferguson is given his first baggy green cap, and first chance to play for Australia in any form of the game for five years.
"We'll wait until tomorrow and see what's happening with the weather,” Smith replied when asked about Marsh's spot.
"You might not need to have that extra bowling option if there's a lot of rain around.
"There's possibilities we could go in with six genuine batsmen. We'll wait and see.
"I guess it will depend over the next 24 hours and what the wicket looks like and the forecast looks like.
"The forecast isn't great for the next couple of days so we'll wait until the Test to name a team.”
While indicating spinner Nathan Lyon's place was safe, Smith said he believed Voges would also avoid the axe, despite not scoring a half-century in nine Test innings, including his double failure at the WACA.
"He's fine,” he said of the 37-year-old. "I think if he's fit he'll be in the team. He's come through his fitness test fine so I think he'll be good to go.”
Although there will be a temptation to unleash four pace bowlers against the Proteas on a wicket that will offer little assistance to spin, Tasmanian Jackson Bird appears set for 12th-man duties in his home Test.
Blundstone Arena curator Marcus Pamplin told media yesterday: "There should be a bit of spin early on but I don't think it is going to break up enough to allow the spinners to get any purchase on this pitch at all.
"I don't reckon there will be any reverse swing, it will be conventional swing, and if there is a little bit of cloud around it could swing a bit.
"But when the sun comes out eventually, it should be good for batting as well.”
No doubt Smith will be hoping his own side, whoever makes the final cut, will shine in Hobart, where Australia has lost once in 12 Test matches, but is enduring a four-match losing streak.
"I think the team's in a good place at the moment,” a defiant Smith said in the face of a barrage of criticism.
"We've got a good culture built on constant improvement and getting better. We're a tight-knit group and we're ready to hopefully turn this around this week.”