Marsh, Whiteman flatten India A with huge stand
Australia A 9 for 522 (Marsh 211, Whiteman 174, Bumrah 4-128) lead India A 9 for 475 dec by 47 runs
It was only one innings of one match in the middle of winter, but it is just possible that Australian cricket will look back on this as the day it found successors to Brad Haddin and Shane Watson. At the very least, it was the day that Mitchell Marsh and Sam Whiteman rewrote the record books, combining for a 371-run partnership that rescued Australia A from a seemingly terminal 6 for 99 against India A in Brisbane.
It was the highest seventh-wicket stand in a first-class match in Australia, breaking the record of 335 set by Queensland's Cassie Andrews and Eric Bensted back in 1934-35. Only once in all of first-class history has there been a higher seventh-wicket partnership, the 460 made by Bhupinder Singh jnr and Pankaj Dharmani for Punjab against Delhi in the Ranji Trophy semi-final of 1994-95.
Marsh finished with 211, his second first-class century and his first double; Whiteman ended up with 174, the first time he had reached triple figures in a first-class outing. But the most impressive aspect of their work was that the stand was built from perilous circumstances, for when they came together late on the second day at Allan Border Field, Australia A were still 376 runs short of India A's first-innings score, with only four wickets in hand.
The hosts finished the third day with a lead of 47, and still at the crease. By then it was Cameron Boyce, who had moved on to 16, and Chadd Sayers, who was on 3, as the total progressed to 9 for 522. All three wickets had fallen late in the day: Whiteman caught on the boundary when he swept Karun Nair, Ben Cutting bowled by Jasprit Bumrah for 11, and Marsh run out in a mix-up with Boyce.
By then it was all academic. Marsh and Whiteman had not only saved their team, they had done so in front of the national coach Darren Lehmann, who was watching on as selector on duty. Last week, Lehmann had told coaches at Cricket Australia's high-performance conference in Brisbane that his top priority was generating more consistent first-innings runs; the two young Western Australians could have done no more to impress him.
Marsh struck 21 fours and 10 sixes in his 294-ball innings. His talent has never been doubted, and has earned him seven games for his country in the shorter formats, but this was the kind of innings that will make the selectors consider him for Test squads as well. Australia have a supply of bowling allrounders including James Faulkner, but if they want a batting allrounder to succeed Watson, Marsh, 22, might develop into their man.
Whiteman, also 22, might have pushed in front of men like Matthew Wade and Tim Paine with this performance, and could find himself the next man called up if Haddin needs a backup. When Whiteman and Peter Nevill were chosen for the winter Australia A games, then national selector John Inverarity said they gained their chances because Wade and Paine were "well regarded, known quantities".
Inverarity's successor, Rod Marsh, and his panel will know a lot more about Whiteman after this. He struck 26 fours and one six in his 278-ball stay and it followed on from an outstanding Sheffield Shield season for Western Australia, in which he made 687 runs at 45.80 and topped the competition tally for wicketkeeping dismissals, with 45 victims.
Australia's selectors can also be grateful that Whiteman has not followed his namesake, Sam Robson, in pursuing a career with England. Born in Yorkshire, Whiteman moved with his family to Australia at three, and he said that had the opportunity arisen to further his career with England while playing league cricket there at the age of 18, he might have stayed.
Instead, he was on hand to help Marsh rescue Australia A. Their work will likely lead to a draw, with only one day to play.
After the day's play, Marsh said he was happy to see Whiteman score his maiden first-class hundred and credited his own performance to a long break that helped him work on his game. Marsh had opted out of IPL 2014 and was focused on improving his fitness.
"I was supposed to go to England but that didn't work out but it was good to have a break and get away for a bit, focus on red-ball cricket and change a few things," Marsh said. "Today is a little reward but it's just the start and hopefully I can keep progressing."