Siddle, Marsh set for fitness test
Photo Source: AAP
Next week's Sheffield Shield round looms as a fitness test for three Australian stars aiming to face South Africa at the WACA in a fortnight.
Peter Siddle and Shaun Marsh will be racing the clock as they seek to prove they are physically ready the first cricket Test, which starts on November 3.
Mitchell Starc, who required 30 stitches in his leg after a training accident accident in September, is expected to confirm on Thursday he will be right to play for NSW at the Gabba next week.
Siddle has recovered from back stress fractures and bowled a total of 18 overs in the domestic one-day competition but five days of Test cricket is a different proposition.
Marsh tweaked his hamstring batting for Western Australia on Saturday and would need to recover remarkably well to be ready on Tuesday, when day-night Shield matches start in Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth.
It's hard to imagine Rod Marsh's panel will include Starc, Siddle or Marsh in the Test squad announced next Friday if they're not put through their paces at first-class level.
"We'd like them to play (a Shield game before being selected), obviously we've done that ever since I've been involved," coach Darren Lehmann said on Wednesday.
"We want them fit and proving their fitness, ready to go, ready for an important summer so that'll be the same for everyone."
Siddle suggested on Tuesday he would not put his hand up to tackle the Proteas if he isn't able to bowl flat out for Victoria at the MCG.
Lehmann felt the 31-year-old paceman, who has been on the comeback trail since breaking down in February, could show enough in one Shield game to warrant selection.
"For someone of his experience, yes," Lehmann said.
"I'm sure selectors will look at his performance in the Shield game.
"He's obviously been a very good bowler for Australia over a long period of time, so hopefully he gets through that and see how we go from there."
However, when it came to form, Usman Khawaja doubted how much he, Joe Burns and others hoping for a recall could really achieve next week.
"I'm pretty sure they (selectors) have already picked the team before that (Shield) match starts. I think they'll have a pretty good feeling with where they're going to go," Khawaja said.
The return of Starc and Josh Hazlewood, who was rested from Australia's recent 5-0 ODI series loss in South Africa, could set the stage for a star-studded pace shootout.
South Africa quicks Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander are all more than capable of changing the course of a game in a single spell.
The one roadblock to such a contest could be the surface. Australia and New Zealand played out a dull draw on a flat WACA wicket last year.
"I think you'll find it'll be a really good wicket and probably more like the old WACA than last year," Lehmann said.
"Apparently so (it played faster in recent domestic one-dayers), I'm sure they'll get it right and I'm sure they'll do a good job.
"I've got no idea how to prepare a pitch so won't be going down that path (of making any requests), unlike other people, we just let the curators do their job."