Australia’s spearhead Mitchell Starc will need to bowl at the touring team’s main training session on Tuesday to prove his fitness for the pivotal third Test against South Africa in Cape Town. He was a notable absentee from centre wicket net practice as Australia resumed preparations at Newlands following a week’s break.
While Mitchell Marsh did bowl a couple of overs at half-pace as he continued his recovery from a groin strain, a calf complaint for Starc is a concern for Australia given that he has just had numerous days to shake off any residual niggles from the first two Tests of the series in Durban and Port Elizabeth.
Typically Australia’s quicks bowl at two training sessions on resumption from a break before resting on match eve, meaning Starc is behind Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins in his readiness for the start of the match on Thursday. The young speedster Jhye Richardson and the more seasoned seam and swing bowler Chadd Sayers are the two reserve pace bowling options on tour.
“Sometimes the bowlers just work their way into the games a little bit differently, his preparation might be a little bit different going into this game,” Cameron Bancroft said of Starc. “I think in the past, he’s bowled a couple of days out and had that third day as a bit of a rest day. Hopefully he’ll bowl [on Tuesday], I’m sure he’ll be ok.
“[Cummins and Hazlewood] bowled really well, they’re first-class campaigners and the beauty of being part of this team is you get opportunities to face in the nets a lot some of the best bowlers in the world and we have them. Today they were really good out there, had a few days off so they loosened up and got into things a bit slower, but by the first couple of balls they were back into full swing at full tilt.”
Starc has a history of suffering injuries that prevent him from playing every Test of a series. During the recent Ashes bout, he suffered a heel problem that ruled him out of the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne before he returned for the final match in Sydney. Before that, he played only two of four Tests in India, and in 2015-16 suffered foot and ankle problems that caused him to miss a home series against West Indies followed by a tour of New Zealand.
The sight of Marsh bowling, albeit conservatively, was a more encouraging sight for Australia, after his bowling value was underlined by a pair of reverse-swing wickets at St George’s Park.
“He’s had four really important days off as it has been for everyone,” Bancroft said, “especially our fast bowlers who’ve spent a lot of time bowling over the past six months for us. Mitch has been working through his stuff and had a bowl. I assume he’ll pick that up leading up to the game on Thursday and I’m sure he’ll be fine.”
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.