McDonald deflected any talk of Marsh ultimately replacing David Warner at the top of the batting order, having previously led to speculation about Marnus Labuschagne being promoted with his comments in a radio interview. There is no realistic prospect of Labuschagne being moved from three.
“On the back of a strong Ashes campaign it’s likely he’ll start in that number-six position, so [that’s] something to get excited about for the Perth fans, looking to see him play that aggressive role at six,” McDonald said of Marsh. “We want him to have that intent he has shown in previous Test matches and one-day cricket, so [we’re] really excited by what he can bring with both bat and ball and just around the group in general. He’s a person we love having around.”
One player who has no plans to declare a Test retirement date is Nathan Lyon, who will rebalance the attack considerably after he was desperately missed in the final three Ashes Tests. McDonald stated that Lyon was one of the world’s most underrated cricketers, and the team now understood exactly what was lost in his absence.
“I think in the last series they played it was a more up-tempo brand and they’ll try to put more pressure on the bowling unit, so I think we’ll see a little bit of that. But, like anything, if we execute with the ball it’s going to be difficult to be able to maintain that over long periods. We’re not sure of the way they’ll play – they’ll signal their intent from the first ball out there.
“I’m glad someone noticed the fact we were missing him in the last three Test matches. It was a huge loss when he went down, it destabilised what we’d normally do and he’s been down the other end to those quicks for 100 Tests on the dot,” he said.
“So important to the way we operate, he can tie up an end, he can be aggressive when he wants to be, but he makes that attack work and when he wasn’t there we went through some periods of instability, and we had to find different ways of doing things, and at times it looked as though we could manage that, at other times we didn’t.
“I think he flies under the radar in conversations at times – we’re happy to have him every time he plays. I think people will reflect when he does finally hang up the boots [just] how important he was to this bowling attack. Internally we recognise that, externally sometimes he’s not recognised as much as he should be.”
Expected Australia XI: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Mitchell Marsh, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins (capt), Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.