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Marsh set to be retained in Test squad

AAP logoAAP 27/10/2016 Rob Forsaith

Shaun Marsh has all but convinced national cricket selectors he warrants retention, as they settle on whether the incumbent or Joe Burns should open for Australia in next week's first Test.

There are expected to be few surprises in Australia's 12-man Test squad to be revealed on Friday by chairman of selectors Rod Marsh in Perth.

But there will be one batsman left feeling unlucky.

Picking David Warner's opening partner for the three-Test series opener against South Africa, which starts next Thursday at the WACA, has been a complex and agonising decision for selectors.

There are arguments for both batsmen, who have looked the goods in the season-opening Sheffield Shield round, but it's understood selectors are leaning towards the incumbent.

Marsh was recalled at the expense of Burns to deliver a knock of 130 during Australia's tour of Sri Lanka in August, when the tourists found runs incredibly hard to come by.

The West Australian's previous Test was in Hobart last summer, when he plundered a career-best 182 against a woeful West Indies outfit.

The 33-year-old suffered a minor hamstring strain earlier this month but passed 50 in both Shield innings at the WACA this week, affirming both fitness and what WA coach Justin Langer dubbed "career-best form".

Burns, who is 27, was widely viewed as Warner's long-term partner at the top before coming unstuck on the subcontinent.

The right-hander is also in form. He scored 129 for Queensland at the Gabba this week against a NSW attack featuring Test bowlers Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon.

Usman Khawaja will almost certainly return to the side at first drop, despite speculation he could open with Warner.

Khawaja has batted at No.3 in the majority of his 29 Test innings, including a purple patch last summer that featured tons at the Gabba, WACA and MCG.

The left-hander recently labelled selectors "fickle" and suggested he and Burns were made "scapegoats" during a 3-0 series loss in Sri Lanka, but those comments are unlikely to cost him a recall.

The third pace berth in the XI that will face South Africa at the WACA looms as a battle between Peter Siddle and Jackson Bird, both in action this week at the MCG.

Selectors won't break with the tradition of summoning four pacemen for the first Test, meaning that 'bowl-off' is likely to continue next week in the WACA nets.

Rod Marsh and coach Darren Lehmann will inspect the wicket before deciding on Australia's attack.

Starc bowled 19 overs this week for NSW in his return from a badly cut leg that required 30 stitches. Provided the spearhead pulls up well, he will face the Proteas.

Allrounder Mitch Marsh, batsman Adam Voges and wicketkeeper Peter Nevill are also expected to be retained despite indifferent form in recent months. POTENTIAL 12-MAN TEST SQUAD: Shaun Marsh, David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith (capt), Adam Voges, Mitch Marsh, Peter Nevill, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon, Jackson Bird

SHAUN MARSH: Age: 33 Test runs: 1247 at 40.22 Why they'd go with him: Dropping a batsman after he has scored one of the team's two centuries during a miserable three-Test tour would be bold.

JOE BURNS: Age: 27 Test runs: 872 at 41.52 Why they'd go with him: Delivered a pressure-laden ton this week, showed what he is capable of over the past year and worked well with Warner.

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