The Australian selectors have gone with Peter Siddle as one of the three mainline seamers to meet the Proteas in the first Test in Perth, starting Thursday.
Pace bowler Joe Mennie, who many thought would make his Test debut, is 12th man, while Nathan Lyon will provide spinning backup.
It could be a gamble by the selectors, given that Siddle is making his first appearance since the tour of New Zealand in February, after which he was diagnosed with stress fractures of the back.
Mitchell Starc, too, is not fully recovered from the horrendous gash he received to his shin last month, which required 38 stitches.
He will wear a protective leg brace when he fields, but he is adamant it will not stop him bowling at full speed. ‘It’s still open, I need to clean it every day, put a patch on it and away you go,’ he said.
More worrying is his lack of preparation leading up to the opener, having only returned to competitive bowling in the Sheffield Shield last week.
Siddle believes he proved his fitness in Victoria’s Sheffield Shield match against Tasmania last week, taking match figures of 3-43 from 26 overs.
Captain Steve Smith said while Siddle and Mennie had similar attributes, the Victorian’s experience was the defining factor in his selection. ‘Those type of bowlers are the kind of bowlers that can sort of bowl consistent areas, hit good areas and build some pressure and keep the runs down,’ he said.
Josh Hazelwood, who was rested for the ODI series against South Africa, makes up the pace attack.
Australia: David Warner, Shaun Marsh, Usman Khawaja, Steven Smith (capt), Adam Voges, Mitchell Marsh, Peter Nevill (wk), Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon.
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images