In-form Marsh makes way for Khawaja in Boxing Day Test

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Melbourne, Dec 25 (IANS) Left handed batsman Shaun Marsh was dropped from Australia’s starting XI to make way for the returning Usman Khawaja for Saturday’s Boxing Day Test against the West Indies at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Australia captain Steve Smith confirmed the XI at his captain’s press conference on the eve of the second Test against the West Indies on Friday, with national selectors allowing Joe Burns to keep his place at the top of the order.

Smith will bat at number four, with Khawaja to return to the No.3 spot he started to lay long-term claims to during the recent series against New Zealand.

Khawaja’s return is the only change to the side which cruised to a thumping win over the West Indies in the first Test in Hobart, with Australia sticking to the pace attack of Josh Hazlewood, Peter Siddle and James Pattinson, leaving uncapped Victorian seamer Scott Boland on the sidelines.

Smith said Marsh was “very unlucky” to miss out, with stability at the top of the order behind the decision.

“That was a big part of it, Joe’s been playing quite good cricket, he scored a hundred only a couple of Tests ago,” Smith said.

“I think they (Burns and Warner) average 80 as a pair and it’s important to have a good opening stand so the selectors thought that was the right way to go.”

“There’s been a lot of conversations around it, Shaun is obviously really unlucky to miss out after a brilliant 180 in last test match and 49 under a bit of pressure in Test before. There’s been lots of talks about it just and they just believe that’s the best way to go going forward.”

Smith said Australia’s three-day win in Hobart in the first Test meant his pace attack was well rested for Melbourne.

“It all happened pretty quickly to win in three days so they got that extra rest. They’re all bowing really well so we’ll stick to the same attack.”

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