Mitch ready for Test comeback, says Smith

Steve Smith has given Mitchell Marsh's remoulded batting technique the thumbs up with the all-rounder poised to earn a recall for the third Test in Perth.

Selectors are waiting until a final pitch inspection on Thursday morning before finalising the XI for the match, but are leaning towards having an extra bowling option on a WACA deck where batsmen have been favoured this season.

Australian selectors seldom change a winning line-up at home, but memories of the bat-a-thon here two years ago against New Zealand have been hard to erase.

WACA curator Matt Page has left more grass on the pitch to give it extra pace but cooler conditions have prevented the surface from baking into the feared paceman's paradise of its halcyon days.

"The stats suggest over the last couple of years the bowlers have had a pretty heavy workload out on this wicket," Smith said.

"We're probably leaning down that way at the moment but, again, it will depend on what we think the wicket's like tomorrow. If it is going to be hard and fast and bouncy that might again change our thinking."

Marsh's seamers will provide relief for the frontline quicks, though the all-rounder's modest Test record suggests he will have his work cut out in the middle order.

"I think he's tightened his defence quite a lot," Smith said. "I know speaking to him when he was back in the team a little while ago we spoke about softening your hands up in defence. Those good-length balls, not going so hard at them.

"I've seen that watching him the last couple of days in the nets and watching some of the live feed of the Shield games in defence he has softened his hands up - he's still putting away the bad ball.

"He hits the ball as hard as anyone I've seen. He's a strong lad. To have that positive intent, cash in on loose bowling, but good balls you're allowed to defend them. It was about finding that defence that worked for him. He's tightened up a lot in defence which helps him."

Handscomb is the final player remaining from the five who were swept into the team after the nadir of Hobart last summer.

Although his short to medium-term prospects appear brighter than Matt Renshaw, Nic Maddinson and Matthew Wade, he has lost control of his destiny.

The short turnaround between the final two Tests gives selectors more cause for picking an all-rounder in Melbourne, and there is a strong chance Australia will play two spinners in Sydney.

"If we go down the route of Pete missing out it's unlucky," Smith said. "The message to him is purely, from my point of view and the selectors speaking to them, it is for that extra bowling option, it's nothing to do with his batting, as such.

"We still see a very bright future for Pete. He's come in, averaging 47 in Test cricket, against a whole heap of different nations in different conditions.

"He can certainly play the gam. If he is to miss out there's no reason why he won't be back in the team soon."

Up 2-0, Smith's men are ideally placed to regain the urn in Perth, where England's only win from 13 tries was in 1978 against an Australian team ravaged by World Series.

"I said after the last game that England are only a couple of bad sessions away from losing the Ashes," Smith said.

"We're obviously confident going into this week but, having said that, England are a very good side and there's no doubt they're going to come back really hard this week.

"For us, the message I've said to the boys is don't get complacent.

"Keep playing really good hard, aggressive cricket , and doing the basics really well and if we do that on this wicket then hopefully we'll get the result we're after at the end of this week."

This story Mitch ready for Test comeback, says Smith first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.