Johnson backs Marsh for No3 spot
Mitchell Johnson. Pic: Lincoln Baker/WA News

Mitchell Johnson believes Shaun Marsh is one of the country's premier batsmen and is worthy of the No.3 position for next month's Test series against South Africa.

Johnson and Marsh have toiled for WA in the past two years after being dropped from the Test side following dramatic form lapses.

Johnson's celebrated renaissance was capped off on Monday night when he claimed the Allan Border Medal, chiefly on the back of his 37 wickets in the 5-0 clean sweep of England during the home Ashes series.

The speedster said there was no reason why Marsh could not enjoy a successful return to Test ranks after being named in the 15-man touring party on Monday alongside Tasmanian top-order batsman Alex Doolan.

"I've always got along well with Shaun and we've had a lot of time together playing cricket, playing against each other," Johnson said.

"I'm really proud of him to get back as well.

"He's had a couple of opportunities. From my point of view, I think he's one of the best batsmen in Australia and that's why he's been picked.

"I will talk to him and keep him going in the right direction. Hopefully he can score some runs over there.

"I think he's a No.3 batsman. Whether that's where he should bat or not, that's not my decision but he's definitely got the technique to bat at No.3."

Johnson said Marsh provided another sign of his growing maturity with his composed unbeaten 71 from 89 balls in game three of the one-day series against England at the SCG on Sunday night.

The pace spearhead has credited his own blistering return to the ODI arena last year, where he bowled with controlled aggression in England, as the moment that convinced him he could excel again at the top level.

Marsh has similarly looked in sparkling touch in his two ODI appearances this summer.

All-rounder Shane Watson is expected to be pushed down the order to No.6 in South Africa after mixed success batting at first drop and with plans for him to bowl more.

The shift seems certain to leave 30-year-old Marsh and Doolan, 28, in a head-to-head contest to fill the No.3 spot.

Their performances in Australia's four-day tour game against a South African invitational XI in Potchefstroom, starting on February 5, could be the deciding factor.

Marsh will also have extra chances to push his selection case starting with Friday's fourth ODI against England at the WACA Ground - a game in which Johnson will be vice-captain.

Johnson predicted he would not stray from the short menacing spells that proved so successful in the Ashes when facing South Africa.

"They've got two or three guys in the top 10 batting wise," he said. "They're an unbelievable team. They're No.1 for a reason.

"It (my bowling approach) worked in this series. We'll have to wait and see if it works over there, but the conditions will definitely suit fast bowlers."

"… I think he's one of the best batsmen in Australia and that's why he's been picked."" *Mitchell Johnson *on Shaun Marsh

The West Australian

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