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Injury worry over Starc as paceman restricted to batting in Cape Town

Australia is sweating over a fresh injury concern ahead of the third Test against South Africa, with spearhead Mitchell Starc unable to bowl at its first training session in Cape Town.

Starc, who has a sore calf, was restricted to batting duties on Monday.

The news was better for Mitch Marsh, who suffered a minor groin strain during the second Test.

Marsh wasn't able to bowl at full pace alongside Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, who both steamed in during a spirited centre-wicket session.

But late in the session the all-rounder briefly trundled in, exercising great caution as team doctor Richard Saw watched on.

Team management is confident Starc and Marsh will both prove their fitness on Tuesday. Both setbacks are minor but there is scant wiggle room ahead of the match that starts on Thursday.

"Sometimes the bowlers just work their way into games a little bit differently," Cameron Bancroft said of Starc.

"His preparation might be a little bit different going into this game. Hopefully he'll bowl [on Tuesday]. I'm sure he'll be ok."

Chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns and coach Darren Lehmann opted against flying a cover player in for Marsh.

It suggests they are confident the all-rounder will be fully fit; or are comfortable picking him as an in-form batsman.

"Absolutely … he'll hopefully pick that [speed] up leading up to the game on Thursday. I'm sure he'll be fine," Bancroft said, when asked if Marsh will be cleared to bowl in the third Test.

Losing Starc would be an immense blow to the tourists' hopes of winning the series, currently level at 1-1. The left-armer earned man-of-the-match honours during Australia's series-opening win in Durban.

Uncapped duo Chadd Sayers and Jhye Richardson are the reserve pacemen in the touring squad.

Starc looked sore while bowling last Monday, when the second Test finished in Port Elizabeth, but suggested it was nothing serious.

"The footmarks were a bit uncomfortable, [33.4] overs in the first innings takes a bit of a toll on the body. All good though," Starc told reporters last week.

"We've got a fair few days off to rest up and refresh mentally and physically."

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Starc has suffered a series of right foot injuries in his 42-Test career, with the most recent being a bruised heel that forced the 28-year-old to miss last year's Boxing Day Test against England.

The express paceman was also bothered by a stress fracture in the same foot for much of last year, with the injury resulting in an early exit from the Test tour of India.

Cape Town curator has free rein this time

Meanwhile, South Africa has seemingly stuck to its vow not to influence the pitches produced for the series against Australia, at least for the Test in Cape Town.

A dangerous pitch that became an international embarrassment has triggered something of an epiphany in South Africa, with curators no longer being coerced or constrained like they were earlier this year.

External Link: Sport24News tweets The venue for the 3rd Test between SA and Australia … Newlands @OfficialCSA

Australia will confront a challenging green-tinged wicket in Cape Town. There will be plenty of seam movement, especially early on, and reverse-swing should be hard to generate because of a lush centre-wicket block that will impede efforts to scuff the ball.

They're all normal characteristics of Newlands.

The deck isn't expected to have as much pace and bounce in it as the pitch produced for a Test at the ground in January, when 18 wickets fell on a single day as the Proteas defeated India.

Nor will it come close to the frightening bounce on offer in Johannesburg during the same series, when a Test was temporarily stopped and almost called off because umpires harboured concerns about batsmen's safety.

That Wanderers wicket, a product of the Proteas' push for a paceman's paradise on which they hoped to unsettle India, was rated poor by the match referee and received widespread condemnation.

Umpires and match referee confer in South Africa

Proteas captain Faf du Plessis and coach Ottis Gibson both suggested prior to the current series that their camp would not make any demands of groundsmen.

Newlands curator Evan Flint confirmed to AAP that's been his experience.

"The Indian series was pretty unique in a sense that we'd never had instructions quite that clear before," Flint said.

"It backfired … it went horribly wrong.

"Our Test was kind of the least controversial [of the three against India] but to me it still wasn't a great Test. It finished in three days, nobody got a hundred. That's not what you want.

"They've definitely stepped back. There doesn't seem to be as big a focus on getting it exactly how they want it."

The pitch produced for the Test in January came to life after heavy rain, ironically in the midst of a major drought, robbed Newlands of its first full day of Test cricket in 82 years.

Flint hopes a day-five finish is on the cards this time around.

Australia and South Africa both produced unplayable spells of reverse-swing in the opening two Tests, but now the impetus will be on Josh Hazlewood and Vernon Philander to bust the game open with the new ball.

"It'll definitely [seam around early]. This time of year it's cooler in the mornings, so there's more moisture," he said.

"We might get a bit of reverse late, days four and five, but generally this isn't a reverse-swing kind of ground."

AAP

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