Sri Lanka v Australia, 2nd Test, Pallekele September 7, 2011

Marsh to press Hughes, Khawaja for spots


Shaun Marsh, who will make his Test debut in Pallekele, can press Phil Hughes and Usman Khawaja for a place in the Australia XI, with captain Michael Clarke saying there were "no guarantees" for batting berths once Ricky Ponting returns.

Hughes and Khawaja were preferred to Marsh for the first Test in Galle. Neither could produce a standout score - though both showed signs of promise on a poor pitch - keeping the Australian batting order in a state of some flux despite the 125-run victory.

Clarke said Ponting was guaranteed to resume at No. 3 once he returns from Australia following the birth of his second child, but beyond that there is less certainty.

"This is a great problem to have," Clarke said. "Hopefully all three of them do well and we go scissors, paper, rock. It's pressure, [but it is] good pressure. It's what the team needs. There's not one bloke in our team that can look at the first game and feel 100% the job's done and I don't need to improve from the last game.

"I think every one of us needs to perform better, especially our batters. We need to make more runs. If we bat first then a good score on the board in the first innings is crucial. Our first batting innings is crucial, so every one of us puts our hand up, and if you make a start go on and get a good score."

As a newly-anointed selector, Clarke said his philosophy was to allow players to settle in, but also to ensure they were being pushed for their spots. A strong debut by Marsh would create that kind of pressure.

"We've got a group of players in Test and one-day cricket that we think is our core group," Clarke said. "It's got a combination of experienced players and some youth. I think it's really important once you select certain players that you do give them a chance. It's hard to walk straight in and perform.

"I believe these guys do deserve an opportunity, no doubt, but in saying that the player is responsible as well. The player needs to grab it with both hands. The great players that I've been lucky to play with, it doesn't really matter how they got their opportunity - whether someone got injured, someone got suspended, someone got rested - generally the guy that came in made the most of that opportunity.

"What we're trying to do with Australian cricket now is to continue to keep our domestic competition as strong as we possibly can, so there is pressure on the international players - there's someone back home that will take your spot. Shaun is dying for his opportunity, now he gets his chance."

Marsh has only made six first-class centuries since making his start as a teenager with Western Australia. However Clarke was adamant that Marsh's natural flair for shots had been increasingly allied to knowledge of the hard graft required to succeed.

"The key for Shaun is to give himself a chance," Clarke said. "Once he gets in he's got every shot in the book and he can destroy an opposition team because he's got the talent to take the game away from them. For the team's sake I'd love to see Shaun spend a bit of time in the middle.

"I just think it's really special to see someone who has worked really hard since he's been involved in the Australian one-day team. The way he's improved his training, the discipline he's shown, how he's lost a lot of weight and become fit and strong, it's a great reward for him. I hope he just enjoys it, doesn't worry too much and enjoys the moment. If he does that I've got a funny feeling he's going to make a big score."

Australia's bowling attack excelled in helpful conditions in the first Test, but will likely face a greater challenge to restrict and dismiss Sri Lanka's batsmen on a Pallekele pitch that shows none of the dusty tendencies of the Galle strip. Helping the visitors is the fact that none of the bowlers were over-extended as the hosts' first innings folded for 105.

"I think the extra day off probably helped both teams, but it has definitely helped us, it's allowed our quicks to have another couple of days off," Clarke said. "A lot of the guys did their bowling yesterday so I don't know if they will go there today so they can freshen up going into the Test.

"On these wickets generally it's [likely to be] long days. To take 20 wickets means long, long days in the field. I know we rolled them for 105 the other day but I would be very surprised if that happens again in this series. We have to be prepared because to bowl Sri Lanka out will take a lot of time."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andrew on September 9, 2011, 22:28 GMT

    @onlinegamer55/hyclass re: Marsh, I haven't been a member of the Marsh for a Baggy Green Fan Club, but I did get a rare opportunity to watch some of this series yesterday (Day 2) on PayTV. Apart from a streaky/lucky French Cut & some early nerves outside off (understandable see Watto), he was very sound. Whilst a century on debut is faraway so close, I hope he takes this opportunity & goes on & justifies the selectors FAITH in him. For mine, Cosgrove in SL conditions would of been the better option, & I did have my fingers crossed in a forlorn hope that Warner may of snuck in! I had wanted to see Marsh have one more big Shield season before I was sold on him. Anyways, bravo Marsh. Hope he gets his ton!

  • Online on September 9, 2011, 6:19 GMT

    @hyclass Thanks! It's good to know someone is actually reading my rants here ... Your analysis of the players is really nice to read as well. On a related note, do you know where I can find these first class domestic statistics; for example, you've said that Marsh has scored two centuries since 2007 which I believe but it would be good to know if these stats could be found somewhere on cricinfo. Similarly, stats about how many runs players have scored in Australian first class cricket in certain years, what their averages are each year etc. It seems first class stats are difficult to find. @ravi_hari "The name Marsh associates with guts, elegance and performance". Where did you get that idea?! Seriously, the things people think of these days amazes me. As hyclass has rightly said a number of times on cricinfo, if the only reason you're supporting Marsh is because of his name, then ... well you work it out for yourself. I look at the 50's, 100's and batting average tally when I judge.

  • Christopher on September 8, 2011, 7:38 GMT

    @Paul Adams...hes averaged 48 for WA in his last 3 seasons and scored a tiny,1058 runs in that time. He has only 2 centuries in 1st class cricket since November 2007-both on the Adelaide oval against a weak Sth Australian attack. The contenders for his Test spot,have varied between 1000 and 6000 runs more,each,during that time,than Marsh and between 8 and 25 centuries more.One also has 112 wickets to go with his runs.Marshes 2011 record for Australia is 221 runs at 28.@mari2619 has a valid point.

  • Christopher on September 8, 2011, 7:24 GMT

    @onlinegamer55...always great to read your comments. Spot on again.

  • Online on September 8, 2011, 2:23 GMT

    No, Hughes and Khawaja need at least until the end of the India test series (another 12 tests) to cement their position in the Australian test team. Look at Steve Waugh who is now one of Australia's greatest ever test batsmen; he averaged under 30 with the bat in his first 25 tests. You've got to give players like Hughes an extended run in the test team. Marsh is just a temporary player until someone better comes along; he won't have a lifetime career for Australia. Hughes will. I think Clarke is just saying this to increase Marsh' confidence but Hughes and Clarke are good mates and Clarke won't axe Hughes. I think Khawaja may be in danger though.

  • Christopher on September 8, 2011, 1:02 GMT

    I rate Micheal Clarke highly in terms of character and competency. I believe many of his recent statements,have been made in the highly politicised,post Argus environment,with Nielsen,Chappell,Ponting and Sutherland still closely involved. I wont be satisfied that we are seeing and hearing the authentic Clarke and team, until the SA series begins. I disagree with his statement on great players. Virtually every player that could be classified as part of the great Australian teams, was dropped at some point,many,multiple times. It hardly qualifies them as ,'Having grabbed their opportunities with both hands'. What they did have,was outstanding 1st class credentials that implied they were worth worth perservering with.The last Test wicket was a lottery and no useful information about selection could or should be implied from it. Clarke and others,pointing out what they think Marsh should do to succeed,is evidence that he isnt doing it. Forget,'Paper,rock,scissors'.Just be professional.

  • Christopher on September 7, 2011, 23:56 GMT

    @ravi_hari...Sadly,hes still dining out on his fathers name... He made 110 in a ODI earlier this year and a lucky 70 in another, in which he was dropped on 8.His other innings this year are: 6, 1, 16, 4, 0, 2, 12. In Dec 2010 for WA, 0, 0, 52, 20, 5, 50. He has 2...1st class centuries since Nov. 2007. I had to laugh when you described him inheriting his fathers 'elegance' and definitely wondered about the performance part.Geoff had one of the least attractive batting styles i can remember. He had 4 centuries in 50 tests and an average of 33...S/R 35-one of the slowest in modern history. His dad did have guts,determination and concentration,elements that have been manifestly absent in Shaun. People want to know when Shaun will come good.Theyve been wondering for ten years.The wicket for this Test is slated to be a good one.He has every chance. He owes Australia and those who were overlooked, BIG TIME for the free ride hes been given.I expect a damned big score from him as payment.

  • Dru on September 7, 2011, 17:44 GMT

    I dont think Aus want to get in to a merry go round with Marsh, Kawaja and Hughes and two spots. Two guys need to get a fair go to prove themselves without the fear of being dropped in the next test. I think Hughes and Kawaja should be given the three tests regardless of what Marsh does in the second test. Would get hard if Marsh makes runs and one of the other two fail but what happens when Marsh fails in the 3rd test. Aus are in the process of rebuilding and you cant do that chopping and changing. Someone noted the English chop and change strategy that got them no where, also the Aus strategy of sticking with a core group which led to the them being the best for a long time needs consideration.

  • crik on September 7, 2011, 17:01 GMT

    This is the test that will say good bye to Ricky. Ricky has played his last test abroad. He may play against India and that will most likely be the farewell tour for Sachin, Luxman, Dravid & Ponting. In equity trading past performance is not equal to future performance and cricket is just that.

  • Dummy4 on September 7, 2011, 16:31 GMT

    @Mari. He has avereged around 60 in his last three FC seasons for Western Australia.

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