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Smith vows to take care of Starc in Shield

AAP logoAAP 24/10/2016 Rob Forsaith

National selectors are close to settling on Australia's XI for the first Test, according to captain Steve Smith who has vowed to nurse Mitchell Starc through his return this week.

Day-night Sheffield Shield contests start around the country on Tuesday, when Smith will skipper a star-studded NSW outfit at the Gabba.

Starc will be on restricted duties against Queensland in his first game since a training accident in September, which resulted in a cut leg that required 30 stitches.

The spearhead looms as arguably Australia's most important player in their three-Test series against South Africa, which starts Thursday week in Perth.

Starc is expected to be picked in the Test squad that will be revealed on Friday, with the major uncertainties being David Warner's opening partner and the third pace berth.

However, the left-armer is a long way off full fitness.

Starc will bowl in the first innings for NSW but may sit out the second half of this week's Shield game, while he won't be able to slide and may even field in the slips.

"I'll take care of him and make sure he's ok for that first Test match. It's exciting to see him back on the park," Smith said on Monday.

"He hasn't done as much bowling as we would have liked to get into his body so he's going to be on some restrictions this week.

"He's bowled the last couple of weeks. He feels like the ball is coming out really well."

Starc and Josh Hazlewood will be plotting the downfall of Test hopefuls Usman Khawaja and Joe Burns in Brisbane, one of many intriguing battles this week.

Peter Siddle and Jackson Bird, the leading candidates to claim the final spot in Australia's attack, will be bowling for their respective states at the MCG this week.

Smith suggested Rod Marsh's selection panel had a reasonably clear idea of the players they wanted running out at the WACA, where Australia will seek to regain respect after a shambolic 3-0 series loss to Sri Lanka earlier this year.

"I don't think they are too far off," Smith said.

"I'd say they want to see a few guys play in the first couple of days in the Shield game then be settled."

Shaun Marsh, who scored a ton against Sri Lanka in August, is racing the clock to prove his fitness for the upcoming WACA Test.

Marsh, Khawaja, Burns and Cameron Bancroft are all in the mix to partner Warner at the top of the Test order.

"Usman can bat anywhere in the top three. He's opened for a large chunk of his career growing up," Smith said.

"I actually don't see a huge difference between batting No.3 and opening the batting. I'm sure he'd be fine if he had to bat up the top of the order.

"Uzzy probably hasn't got as many runs as he would have liked in the Matador Cup ... I'm sure he'll be among the runs soon."

Siddle has played three one-day games for Victoria after spending the winter recovering from stress fractures in his back.

Victoria have confirmed the veteran will roll the arm over against Tasmania this week.

"If he gets through the Shield game, I think he'll be available for the first Test," Victoria skipper Matthew Wade said.

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