Marsh axed as Khawaja re­turns for Ade­laide Test

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Aus­tralia sprang a sur­prise by ax­ing vice-cap­tain Mitch Marsh yes­ter­day for the first Test against In­dia, as Us­man Khawaja’s re­turn was con­firmed de­spite the shock of his brother’s ar­rest. Bats­men Travis Head and Peter Hand­scomb were pre­ferred to the all-rounder, pil­ing more pres­sure on the bowlers in what are fore­cast to be scorch­ing con­di­tions, while Mar­cus Har­ris will make his de­but as opener.

Cap­tain Tim Paine said the omis­sion of Marsh, one of Aus­tralia’s two vice-skip­pers along with Josh Ha­zle­wood, was due to a lack of con­sis­tency and he would ben­e­fit from re­turn­ing to Sh­effield Shield cricket to find form again.

Hand­scomb edged him out after two half-cen­turies last week and a cen­tury for Vic­to­ria the week be­fore that.

“Mitch Marsh has not been as con­sis­tent as he would like and we would like,” said Paine at his pre-match press con­fer­ence, after the all-rounder en­dured lean tours of South Africa and the United Arab Emi­rates, where they played Pak­istan.

“We know the ta­lent that Mitch has and we know that most likely at some stage in this se­ries we will need him. We are tak­ing the op­por­tu­nity at the mo­ment to go back and play a Shield game and get some cricket un­der his belt.” In-form debu­tant Har­ris will open in a new-look top or­der along­side Aaron Finch.

Paine de­scribed Har­ris as “an ag­gres­sive lit­tle player” who de­served his chance.

“He can play his shots but he’s also re­ally im­proved his de­fence. He’s come a long way as a bats­man.”

Khawaja, whose brother was ar­rested on Tues­day for al­legedly fram­ing a love-ri­val with a fake ter­ror plot, will come in at first drop.

The Pak­istan-born Aus­tralian, who is re­turn­ing after an­kle surgery, was not seen in the nets yes­ter­day after his fam­ily cri­sis, al­though he is known to only take on a light work­load the day be­fore a Test.

“We’re keep­ing an eye on Uzzie, ob­vi­ously it was a lit­tle bit of shock for him yes­ter­day,” coach Justin Langer told SEN ra­dio.

“That said, he’s got good sup­port around him. He’ll be as cool and calm as usual out on the mid­dle.”

His brother Ar­salan was re­leased on bail after ap­pear­ing in a Syd­ney court on charges of forgery and at­tempt­ing to pervert jus­tice.

Shaun Marsh will bat at four with Hand­scomb at five and Head at six.

The dump­ing of Mitch Marsh will add an ex­tra bur­den for Ha­zle­wood, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cum­mins and spin­ner Nathan Lyon, who will have to take on more overs in tem­per­a­tures fore­cast to top 30 Cel­sius.

“We ob­vi­ously have a lot of con­fi­dence in Nathan Lyon bowl­ing a lot of overs if we need to,” said Paine, adding that Head could also bowl some off-spin on a pitch that is ex­pected to de­te­ri­o­rate as the match wears on.

“And prob­a­bly the fact that all our three quicks go in real fresh. We have con­fi­dence in them, par­tic­u­larly at the start of the se­ries. They are ready to go and have had great prepa­ra­tions.”

Aus­tralia: Mar­cus Har­ris, Aaron Finch, Us­man Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Travis Head, Peter Hand­scomb, Tim Paine (capt), Josh Ha­zle­wood, Pat Cum­mins, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Starc.

Aus­tralian bats­man Us­man Khawaja re­acts dur­ing a train­ing ses­sion at the Ade­laide Oval.

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