Langer backs Marsh to have an impact

Dale Miller

Test great Justin Langer says Mitch Marsh is now ready to have an impact at Test level after lifting his work rate and maturing over the past year.

The 23-year-old will make his Test debut against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates today.

As well as the strong backing from WA coach Langer, Australian skipper Michael Clarke anointed Marsh as a future captain yesterday.

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Langer said Marsh had come a long way since being suspended with brother Shaun for partying during the Perth Scorchers' ill-fated 2012 Champions League campaign in South Africa.

"He's worked extremely hard and he's ready to go," Langer said.

"We've always taken the mickey out of him a bit for getting over 100kg and the boys rip into him a bit, but he's elite with his skin folds now.

"He's had some injury problems, but his rehab has always been meticulous. I think he's getting the benefits of that now.

"It's been a great turnaround."

Marsh is expected to bat at No.6 as a designated all-rounder, but Langer said he was capable of playing as a specialist batsman in coming years.

The Test debut will be historic for the Marsh family.

Father Geoff Marsh, who has flown to Dubai for the game, will become the first player to have two sons play Test cricket for Australia.

Marsh averages just 28.5 with the bat at first-class level, but his output has improved over the past year. He has had knocks of 89, 86 not out, 40 not out and 63 not out in his past 10 matches.

A brutal 211 as part of a 371-run partnership with Warriors teammate Sam Whiteman against India A in July helped convince national selectors he was ready for the longer format.

"He's played 30-odd shield games and my gut feeling is now is the time for him to really start stepping up," Langer said.

"He's got a bit of confidence. He'll be nervous. Who isn't playing Test cricket? But he's got a great opportunity to grab it and really run with it. I'm sure Mitchell will develop and be able to play just as a batsman."

Langer's glowing assessment came after Clarke lavished praise on Marsh in his newspaper column yesterday.

"I believe Mitchell Marsh can be a future captain of Australia," Clarke wrote. "That might sound like a big call for a bloke who only turned 23 yesterday and has yet to play a Test match.

"But I have toured with him quite a few times now and continue to be impressed with his talent, knowledge and game awareness."

Marsh captained Australia to an under-19 World Cup triumph in 2010.

His pace bowling will be critical in the first Test with Australia tipped to field two spinners - Nathan Lyon and debutant Steve O'Keefe.

Australia trained at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Monday on pitches a few metres either side of the centre-wicket area and in the nets at the ICC Academy yesterday.

The first Test pitch is the same one which offered plenty of turn in the limited-overs series earlier this month.

"When I came here and saw the square before a ball was bowled in the one-dayers, I thought from then that's the wicket we'll be playing on," Clarke said.

Clarke has put his latest hamstring concern from the one-day series in Zimbabwe in August behind him.

But his match total of 15 runs in last week's four-day game against Pakistan A has left him short of game time ahead of the two-Test series.

"I would have liked a few more runs in the practice game to test that out," Clarke said.

"But I guess the positive was the fact that I was able to field for two full days, have no pain so both (physio) Alex Kountouris and I were really impressed with that."

Clarke has challenged his side to maintain momentum away from home after the dramatic series victory in South Africa in March.

Following off-spinner Saeed Ajmal's chucking ban, Pakistan are considering a three-pronged spin attack of left-armer Zulfiqar Babar, uncapped leggie Yasir Shah and off-spinning all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez.

  • Australia * *(possible side in batting order): *Chris Rogers, David Warner, Alex Doolan, Michael Clarke (capt), Steve Smith, Mitch Marsh, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Steve O'Keefe, Nathan Lyon.


  • Pakistan squad: *Misbah-ul Haq (capt), Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Taufeeq Umar, Shan Masood, Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Talha, Rahat Ali, Imran Khan, Ehsan Adil, Sarfraz Ahmed, Zulfiqar Babar, Yasir Shah.

"He's played 30-odd shield games … now is the time for him to really start stepping up." " *Justin Langer *

with Australian Associated Press