Derby: Australia's chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns said Mitchell Marsh had "given us a good option" ahead of the fourth Ashes Test against England after the all-rounder impressed in a comfortable victory over Derbyshire.
Marsh top-scored with 74 in Australia's 338-5 declared in Derby. He then took two wickets in three balls as Derbyshire were skittled out for 112 in their second innings before lunch on the third and final day as Australia won by an innings and 54 runs.
The 27-year-old Marsh has yet to feature in this five-match Ashes series which is now locked at 1-1 after England's dramatic one-wicket win in the third Test at Headingley. Although England's top order failed again during a woeful 67 all out in their first innings in Leeds, Australia didn't bat the hosts out of the match in their second innings.
Australia are set to recall Steve Smith, who made 23 against Derbyshire, for the fourth Test at Old Trafford starting Wednesday after he missed the Headingley match with a concussion suffered when struck by a Jofra Archer bouncer in the drawn second Test at Lord's.
Marnus Labuschagne's place appears secure given he has made three successive Test fifties since coming in as a concussion substitute for Smith.
One way of getting star batsman Smith, whose scores this series are 144, 142 and 92, back into the side would be to drop struggling opener Marcus Harris and promote Usman Khawaja to the top of the order.
Khawaja averages 96.8 in the seven Test innings in which he has opened. "The area up the top is, not so much concerning, it's been difficult for both teams up the top of the order so once again that's an area we'll be looking at," Hohns said after Saturday's close.
"Mitchell Marsh has certainly given us a good option."
If Marsh was included instead of Matthew Wade, he would give Australia an extra seam bowling option himself and potentially free them up to play Mitchell Starc without worrying that the left-arm fast bowler might otherwise prove too expensive as one of just three pacemen.
Wade, a former wicketkeeper turned specialist batsman, made a second-innings hundred in Australia's 251-run win in the first Test at Edgbaston but he has struggled since with three single-figure scores in his last four innings.
"He played very well that innings he made a hundred," said former Australia leg-spinner Hohns. "Unfortunately, things have not quite gone his way since then. That will certainly be an area we are having a look at."
Old Trafford is expected to provide the quickest pitch of this Ashes, which could boost Starc's chances of a recall.
"We all know he is an aggressor, so we can’t expect him to change the way he bowls too much," Hohns said of Starc, who took 4-39 in the second innings, including two in two balls to end the match, against Derbyshire.
"But he is doing everything he possibly can to bowl in the right areas."
As for the remarkable finish at Headingley, where England all-rounder Ben Stokes's superb 135 not out snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, Hohns said: "It was an amazing innings. No one could have played an innings like that. He won the game virtually single-handedly, and what a wonderful player he is."
"England in the past have had some very good all-rounders, (Ian) Botham then (Andrew) Flintoff and now Stokes. They are very lucky to have someone like that."
Hohns insisted Australia could put the stunning loss behind them as they bid to win their first Ashes series in England for 18 years.
"We certainly had our chances," he said. "We can't be blaming anyone but ourselves. We have to dust ourselves off and come up for the next game."
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