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Smith, Marsh have point to prove in Hobart

AAP logoAAP 10/11/2016 Rob Forsaith and Jason Phelan

Consternation over Steve Smith's captaincy and speculation over Mitch Marsh's place in the Australian XI will ease or erupt after the second Test.

Australia, reeling from a defeat that is unprecedented in the lifetimes of Smith and Marsh, resume their three-Test series against South Africa on Saturday in Hobart.

Smith's side dropped the opening Test of their home summer, an ignominy no Australian team had experienced since 1988.

The pressure is well and truly on Smith for the first time since succeeding Michael Clarke as skipper after the 2015 Ashes.

Graeme Smith, the captain who guided South Africa to Test series victory on their past two visits to Australia, helped turn up the heat earlier this week.

Shane Warne, in his own unique way, then pointed out on Thursday there was only one way for Smith to stop the scrutiny after four consecutive Test losses.

"Steve Smith has done a pretty good job but, if Australia keeps losing, there will be changes to the players and maybe the captaincy," Warne said in Melbourne.

"When we're losing, something has to give ... who knows what can happen? We saw what happened with Donald Trump - anything can happen.

"Over the last three or four months, we've been really poor.

"If Australia starts to perform well, then everything will be fine. If Australia performs badly, then every position is under scrutiny."

Peter Nevill and Josh Hazlewood both leapt to the defence of their skipper.

"I've played a lot with Smithy, even coming up through the junior ranks. He has always been a great leader ... he leads from the front," Hazlewood said.

"His batting while he's been captain has been unbelievable. He is great out in the field; communicates really well with the bowlers."

Nevill noted he couldn't "speak highly enough about Steve as a player, as a person and as a captain".

Marsh finds himself under more pressure than any other member of the XI, with selectors weighing up whether to ditch the allrounder and promote would-be debutant Callum Ferguson at Bellerive.

The problem with beefing up a misfiring middle order with a specialist batsman is that Marsh would offer much-needed relief to overworked pacemen Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc, who bowled a combined 103.4 overs at the WACA.

"He always poses a threat when he bowls. He picks up those couple of vital wickets when he does get a bowl," Hazlewood said.

"He's crucial for our bowling attack.

"He brings nice balance for us and I guess we can go in a bit shorter spells maybe, especially Starcy, and become a bit more threatening."

Selectors will wait until Saturday to settle on an XI, with predicted showers to shape their decision, but Warne predicts Marsh will be dropped because of his lack of runs.

"Mitch Marsh is not performing well, like a lot of people," Warne said.

"I'm not sure he'll get another opportunity. I think people are starting to lose a little bit of patience with him.

"Maybe the best thing for him is to go back to Shield cricket and make five hundreds in a row."

Team physio David Beakley is confident Starc and Hazlewood can "step up and bowl eight-over spells" in the absence of Marsh if required.

"That's no issue. If they're required to do that, they'll do it," Beakley said.

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