New Zealand v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Napier April 5, 2005

The Marshall art


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Hamish Marshall's methods are grounded in simplicity © Getty Images

Even accounting for the worst form of pessimism, Hamish Marshall would have hardly bargained for a four-year break after making an unbeaten 40 on debut at the Wanderers in 2000. With hindsight now, as Marshall rises to every new challenge set by the New Zealand selectors, those four years seem a monumental waste.

To look at it positively, timing is everything, and 2004-05 will be remebered as the Hamish Marshall's season. Bare statistics tell the story effectively enough, but it is his temperament and style with the bat in hand that have signalled his arrival as a tremendous Test prospect.

Marshall has had an infectious effect on the New Zealand side this season. In Bangladesh and Australia it was as an energetic squad member seeking to re-ignite his Test career after becoming a one-day regular in 2003-04. But at home since Christmas, the vibe has stemmed from his stunning success since moving up to assume the No. 3 position in both forms of the game. In the field, Marshall is set for a long rein at backward point, so long the territory of Chris Harris.

Unlike those of his teammates who've blown their chances when picked, Marshall made 69 on his Test return at Chittagong after surviving a dead-straight lbw appeal. But luck has played a much lesser role in his sensational run since then.

It was Marshall's half-century in the white-hot atmosphere of his first day-night ODI in Australia that put New Zealand in position to secure its only win in the 12 trans-Tasman battles this season. A maiden century in his first Test against Australia put New Zealand in a competitive position for one of the few times this season and now, when a good start against Sri Lanka was vital, Marshall delivered another three-figure gem.

No task seems too tough for Marshall. After batting at No. 3 in the one-day team last season, he slipped down to No.5 for Northern Districts after John Bracewell, the New Zealand coach decided that the team needed him to work the middle stages this season. Marshall assumed that spot for his province. But he soon found himself as the international No. 3, courtesy of Mathew Sinclair's choke mid-way through the one-day series against Australia and Stephen Fleming's decision to open in the Tests.

Ordinarily it would be a cause for alarm if a batsman refused net practice as Marshall does on most occasions. It's not that he is shying away from doing the hard yards. It's just that he prefers to hone his batting skills with throw-downs, a method every cricketer in the world can relate to. Staggering as it may seem, the beauty of Marshall's game is that it is based on simple methods.