Australia in Sri Lanka 2011 August 21, 2011

Marsh learning to read Mendis from the hand


Where two weeks ago there was panic in Shaun Marsh's eyes, last night there was calm. Facing up to Ajantha Mendis, who had made him look highly foolish in the second Twenty20 international on the way to startling figures of 6 for16 in Pallekele, Marsh demonstrated the fruits of time in the nets, and the value of sharp concentration against a bowler ready to pounce on the merest lapse.

Upon wandering down the wicket to be stumped in that T20 match, Marsh completed a two-match sequence of 10 balls and four runs for two dismissals. He looked about as likely to flourish against spin as Andrew Hilditch had been to survive the release of the Argus review. While most observers had Marsh batting at No. 6 in the Test series that follows the limited-over matches, now there had to be some doubt.

He was subsequently left out of the team for the first three ODIs, and spent that time with the assistant coach Justin Langer, working on his technique and mental approach. Returning to the international crease in Colombo, with Australia chasing a meagre target, Marsh faced Mendis again, this time armed with the new ball. An innings of 70 played a large part in getting Australia home, and helped Marsh keep himself notionally ahead of Usman Khawaja in the queue for the Australian Test batting order.

As the Australia players enjoyed some rest ahead of the final ODI, on August 22, Marsh said he was far calmer in Colombo than he had ever managed to be in Pallekele.

"I knew if I could just get through those first few overs I'd feel comfortable," Marsh said. "I've faced all the spinners over on the subcontinent before and done well. I knew if I could just get a bit of confidence in the first few overs I'd play my normal game and back my ability, and it was great to get out there and build some confidence.

"It was disappointing in the T20s, [and not selecting me] was the way they went in the first one-day game, but it gave me an opportunity to work really hard against the spinners, and I've enjoyed working with Justin Langer. Going into the game last night I felt confident with the work I've done over the last couple of weeks."

Mendis was not entirely unfamiliar to Marsh, given a few previous jousts in the Indian Premier League, but it clearly took some time for him to summon the application required. It is a common problem among batsmen fed a diet of flat pitches and orthodox bowlers that the skill of watching the hand and the ball can be mislaid.

"That was the main thing, especially after the T20 game where I got stumped. I knew I had to focus on the hand. It is sometimes quite tough, especially early on, but you have to make sure you focus hard and it was good to get through that last night.

"He's a fantastic bowler and he's quite hard to pick, especially with the new ball when you can't really pick the seam, but it was good to get out there and face him and gain a little bit of confidence. They're very challenging bowlers over here on their home soil, so I'll be looking forward to that challenge again tomorrow."

The innings' restorative effect on Marsh has been mirrored on a wider level by Australia's 3-1 series win over the hosts. Led with some panache by the new captain Michael Clarke, Australia have given reason for hope ahead of the Tests, even if the release of the Argus review in Melbourne on Friday reminded all that there are a surfeit of shortcomings to be addressed.

"It's great for the group, it gives us a lot of confidence," Marsh said of the series win. "We knew it was tough coming over here, leading into this series and the T20 stuff up in Brisbane.

"After the two T20 games we really emphasised we wanted to play good, attacking cricket. We've come out and done that; we've been fantastically led by the bowlers and the batters have done their job as well. We've got one one-day game left and we want to win the series 4-1, but we know it's going to be a really tough Test series and we're looking forward to that challenge."

The team's visage on tour was changed by events in Melbourne, not least because of the direct effect the Argus report had on the roles and futures of the coach Tim Nielsen, the selector on duty Greg Chappell and the captain Clarke, who alongside Nielsen now has formal selection responsibilities. Marsh though re-affirmed that the team's sights were set firmly on results and success.

"That's what it's all about. We're just focusing on each game we play and we want to win that for Australia and win that for ourselves. We're just looking forward to that now and looking forward to playing some good cricket."

After besting Sri Lanka in the ODI series, Marsh and his team-mates can appreciate what that feels like.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Christopher on August 22, 2011, 23:49 GMT listing of Marshes nicks in this game,was a response to another rhetoric filled article.If the subject of the article wasnt so ironic,i may not have said anything.'Marsh learns to read Mendis from the Hand'.I felt it judicious to identify the weakness between his announcements and his subsequent results in the game.If,he could read Mendis from the hand and as he has pointed out,they have played against each other on many occassions in the IPL,then why did he edge to slip off Mendis,a simple chance,on 8?As the article continues,he regularly plays spin in IPL,why was he caught behind off a spinner? If he is to be an opener at test level,why did he edge unconrolled shots through slips,at catchable height twice?How is it that a batsman at this level is announcing that hes remebered to watch the ball from the hand?Do his comments and actions tally with the results?When his results announce him,instead of his mouth,then he will have my support.Until then,I will ask questions.

  • Ajay on August 22, 2011, 10:06 GMT

    Marsh, is not doubt a quality player, but I don't think he is good at test level, may be he needs to play some first class games. I am not sure what happened to Phil Hughes, he is a guy similar to Sehwag, hey and where is Marcus North?

  • Lou on August 22, 2011, 9:57 GMT

    Well I don't understand people getting hot under the collar about Hughes. He's a shoe in to open. It's not about Marsh v Hughes, if anything it's about Marsh v Khawaja. I don't think Khawaja is much cop against spin but I think Marsh's temperament is dubious. 50/50 who gets the job. Hyclass' listing of every nick Marsh made in an innings made me laugh, it sounds such an OCD way of judging a player. Watson has never made a test ton without being dropped along the way, I don't think that invalidates his tons as at least he has made 'em! I think Ferguson has about as much chance of Marsh as making regular tons at test leve (actually I think that about Watson as well only he's very consistent with his 50's)l. Both of them are far better short format players than long format so I can't see the point really in either of them getting a gig apart from short-term as a stopgap.

  • Dummy4 on August 22, 2011, 7:30 GMT

    Marsh is a solid player who has performed well in the last several years and has improved dramatically from when he was younger. the same could be said about mitchell marsh as well. he doesnt have a great 1st class record atm but he is young and i think could develop into australias best allrounder in a long time. i think we need to look at the player how he develops his game and not look totally at stats, i mean symo didnt have a good start to his 1st class career, infact i think by the time he played test cricket his average was yet to get to 40 but he grew his game and it developed over time and i think marsh has done this to where he should be considered for selection in all forms. Take out Khawaja's double ton in the first shield game last year and he hasnt made many runs since although i am a fan and rate him highly.

  • Christopher on August 22, 2011, 6:29 GMT

    Khawajas main difficulty is his sudden loss of form.His 09/10 domestic season was pretty good,with three centuries.Since the end of that season,hes played 17 games for 1055 runs at 41.25 with 2 centuries.That has dropped his average by 8 runs.Sometimes he walks across to cover the line and others,uses his hands.That inconsistency,coupled with him never getting far forward,has made him prone to edging.His style relies more than most,on picking the right line immediately,to keep the ball on the ground.I think North has similar issues with extra movements.When they are in sync,they are a great aid to covering the line early,but it doesnt take much to put them out.@Meety...I was looking through David Husseys record.He averages 46.5 in Australia and 64.5 in England,supporting some of your theory on him.He has 16 centuries in Aus,112 and 185 for Australia A in Pakistan,in 3 innings and 22 100s in England.He has a far better conversion rate of 50s to 100s there and a number of double hundreds

  • Andrew on August 22, 2011, 5:24 GMT

    @Jeremy Cole - I'm a Ferguson fan & all I said was that Ferguson's career stats are worse than Marsh. I would rate Ferguson ahead of marsh, & on the subject of style - he is way better than most batsmen in Oz. If we're talking about a #6 spot, I think D Hussey & Ferguson are the two players to choose from. If it is a #3 spot I'd go Khawaja then Cosgrove, if its an opening spot (assuming either Watto or Hughes are failing) I'd go Katich then Marsh. On Khawaja its only 3 FC matches ago he hit a ton for Derbyshire in County cricket, (a few List A 50s as well) so I wouldn't his form is poor. @HatsforBats - I definately would go Cosgrove for a TEST spot sometime soon, he is a useful spinner as well - career bowling average BELOW Beer & Doherty! LOL! I think his size would prevent him playing ODIs & T20s.

  • Christopher on August 22, 2011, 5:16 GMT

    @Jeremy Cole,there's merit in what @Meety says.Whatever form,guys like Marsh and Ferguson have shown over recent seasons,the math says,its volume wasnt anywhere near enough to lift their career averages beyond mediocre.Thats despite Ferguson having only 3300 1st class runs and Marsh having only 3600 runs in total.Any significant volume of runs at a high average would have a big impact.For example,Ferguson would lift his average by one run if he scored 130 in one innings,Marsh would need 135 to do the same.Given that they have only 6 centuries each,in well over a hundred innings,its not unreasonable to ask where those runs will come from.Batting requires an attacking plan,a defensive plan,courage and the physical and mental stamina and focus to carry out those plans.Technique,is irrelevent to success.Very few great players have textbook techniques.Former Vic & NSW opener had the worst technique i ever saw,yet scored 6180 runs at an average of 41.75 with 15 centuries in 86 matches.

  • Online on August 22, 2011, 5:02 GMT

    I agree with most people here but to varying extents. Firstly, @hyclass is absolutely right about Phillip Hughes. Hughes is an outstanding cricket who will be regarded as highly as Ricky Ponting when he retires. Marsh is not a bad person; I think he is a good guy. However, his first class average of 37 does no justice to his case for inclusion in the test team. It is true that he has been more consistent in the past few years and I don't agree completely with hyclass that he should "NEVER be picked in the test team". Players can improve, hyclass. On the other hand, I would say that he is behind (or at least should be behind) quite a few batsmen in the queue for the test team. Phillip Hughes should get first crack at the opener's slot; a bit worried that Tim Nielson is the selector now because he may not give Hughes a game; let's hope Greg Chappell doesn't listen to him. Only thing good about Chappell is that he'll support Hughes. Anyway, Marsh's 70 was solid but not great.

  • Hector on August 22, 2011, 3:55 GMT

    Nope...Those of you who think Khawaja should be the next cab off the rank are completely wrong. Having watched techniques closely it is clear Finch is a superior batsman. As a matter of fact, I would now rate him as probably the best batsman in Australia. He has the ability to play ALL formats and seems to adjust more easily....because of technique...than the other players. As for Haddin, when are we going to see the end of this pretend wicket keeper.....He is the worst of all the State keepers!!! Face reality! His batting has been crap lately as well...almost irresponsible the way he gets out. Time for Wade...or Paine. I'm inviting you to suggest a State keeper who is NOT as good as Haddin...Yep, it will be the world's shortest book.

  • Dummy4 on August 22, 2011, 3:45 GMT

    "and helped Marsh keep himself notionally ahead of Usman Khawaja in the queue for the Australian Test batting order." Get a grip on those thoughts, Khawaja is ahead of Marsh when it comes to a test spot, Marsh has more to prove in the longer format to be ahead of Khawaja as Khawaja has more to prove in the shorter format to be ahead of Marsh. Not much mind you as Marsh has played very well over the past two seasons avg well into the 50's but so has Khawaja who avg over 60 for the past 2 seasons and played more matches so that alone puts Khawaja ahead for a test spot. No more tit for tat selections the one who should get picked is the one who puts his hand up the highest in the format they are selecting for anything short of that keeps Australian Cricket from moving forward.

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