Allrounder dilemma looming for Australia
There seems little doubt that George Bailey will make way for Michael Clarke in Australia's second World Cup match, despite Bailey scoring 55 in the opening game against England on Saturday. But another selection quandary could be looming for Rod Marsh and his panel whenever allrounder James Faulkner recovers from his side strain.
Faulkner will be an automatic selection when fit, his remarkable finishing abilities at No. 8 invaluable to the side as well as his bowling. But the man who benefited from Faulkner's absence at the MCG, Mitchell Marsh, has made himself hard to drop after taking 5 for 33 and scoring 23 batting at No.7 in Australia's big win over England.
Marsh's efforts might mean increased pressure on Shane Watson, who has historically been a vital player for Australia in ODIs with his top-order run-scoring. Watson's golden duck was a case of unfortunate timing given Marsh's success, although Australia will likely have a few more matches before Faulkner becomes available and a decision needs to be made.
Man of the Match from the win over England, Aaron Finch, said on Saturday night that when Watson walked to the crease to join him, he told Watson that Stuart Broad had been bowling cross-seam deliveries and had barely swung the ball. Broad duly sent down a seam-up delivery that moved away a touch and caught Watson's edge on the way through to the wicketkeeper.
Watson bowled three overs in England's unsuccessful chase and conceded 13 runs, while his fellow allrounder Marsh picked up five wickets. However, Marsh said he did not expect Watson would be under pressure to hold his place when Faulkner returned later in the tournament.
"I still think Shane's the premier allrounder in our team and he's such a vital cog for us going forward in this World Cup," Marsh told reporters in Brisbane on Sunday. "All of us know how important he is for us. To be fair I think most blokes [would have] nicked that ball. It was a cracker. It's the one ball you don't want when you go in there first ball."
Marsh and some of his team-mates flew to Brisbane on Sunday ahead of Australia's second match of the World Cup, against Bangladesh next Saturday. Some other players returned home for a couple of days off, given the lengthy break between games.
Clarke is expected to return for the Bangladesh game for his first full international since injuring his hamstring during the Adelaide Test in December. It is likely that Bailey will be squeezed out to accommodate Clarke, despite scoring a half-century and and captaining Australia to a 111-run win in the first match of their home World Cup campaign.
"It's obviously going to be a tough selection for the selectors this week but I think it's a good one," Marsh said. "All the batters are in form which is great for us. This best thing about this squad is that we've got 15 blokes who don't really care what the XI is, we just want to win and build momentum. We're all fighting for spots but at the same time we all want to win."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale