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September 3, 2008
Shaun Marsh's first two one-day internationals at home could hardly have gone any better. Having made a success of his debut ODI series in the West Indies this year, Marsh has continued his excellent form with a pair of half-centuries in Darwin but he knows he is no certainty to retain his place when Matthew Hayden returns from injury.
Marsh's 76 in the opening game was followed by a confident unbeaten 69 that earned him the Man-of-the-Match award in the second contest as Australia cruised past Bangladesh's 117 with 27 overs to spare. First in the Caribbean and now in Australia he has forged a promising opening partnership with Shane Watson.
It is a combination that could be the future for Australia's one-day team. In the short-term, the return of Hayden from a persistent heel injury, probably for the series in India, will force the selectors to choose between Marsh and Watson for the second opening slot.
"Hopefully I can get a few one-dayers when the season starts in Australia when we play South Africa and New Zealand," Marsh said. "I've just got to keep working hard and keep playing well for Western Australia. The season starts there soon so I've just got to keep working hard on that."
Marsh has averaged 50.50 from his first seven one-day internationals and against Bangladesh he has found gaps and regularly scored boundaries while taking few risks. It is a skill that is in high demand among opening batsmen and he is a more attacking type than his father Geoff, the former Australia player.
"I take after my mum a bit, she was always left-handed at whatever she did," Marsh said. "I've probably got a few more shots than the old man."
Marsh has noticed a major improvement in his own batting in the past year, a period during which he averaged more than 60 in the Pura Cup and took the Indian Premier League by storm by topping its run tally. He is one of several men who have impressed the stand-in captain Michael Clarke during the Darwin series.
"There's been some great individual performances," Clarke said. "Shaun Marsh has been on fire. He batted really well in the first game and backed it up today. Guys have an opportunity to either cement their spot in the team or push for selection when guys come back from injury and I think a few of our guys are certainly doing that."
Bangladesh could have had Marsh run out on 5 when he drove to mid off, set off for a single and collided mid-pitch with the bowler Shahadat Hossain. Both men ended up in a messy tangle on the turf and the fielder Nazmul Hossain decided against throwing at the stumps, where Marsh would have been well short.
There were echoes of the Ryan Sidebottom-Grant Elliott crash at The Oval this year, when England ran Elliott out and their captain Paul Collingwood was widely criticised for not calling him back. On this occasion Nazmul erred on the side of caution.
"When he saw the collision he decided against throwing it because he saw them on the ground and he thought he might hit the batsman or the bowler," Mohammad Ashraful, the Bangladesh captain, said. "We play within the spirit of cricket and this was one of those instances. There was a very good run-out opportunity there and he decided against throwing it."
Ashraful would have loved one of his batsmen to show the assuredness of Marsh but he conceded the side's confidence took a pounding following Saturday's 180-run loss. Dhiman Ghosh's entertaining 30 and the tight bowling of Mashrafe Mortaza were positives for Bangladesh but to Ashraful the eight-wicket defeat was just as disappointing as the first failure.
"We are a much better team than this," he said. "We can play much better cricket. We are just not being able to do that at the moment."
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