Sri Lanka v Australia, 2nd Test, Pallekele, 3rd day September 10, 2011

Marsh took playing Test cricket for granted

As Shaun Marsh basked in the glow of a chanceless and near-nerveless century for Australia on Test debut, he admitted that as a precocious teenager he had taken for granted the amount of application required of a Test cricketer.

In 2003, when he was 19, Marsh cracked 119 for Western Australia against Steve Waugh's New South Wales in Newcastle, and assumed that all the garlands and overseas trips of an international career would soon follow without any great obvious effort. Instead it took another eight years and plenty of hard lessons before Marsh could finally debut, and his appreciation was clear in glistening eyes.

"Definitely, there's no doubt about that [I thought it would come easily]," Marsh said. "I probably took it for granted, playing at a young age for WA. I just thought it was going to happen, playing a lot of junior cricket growing up. I didn't know, didn't realise how hard it was to play first-class cricket and I'm glad I did work hard enough and turned it around.

"It's very surreal at the moment. A very proud day, I still can't believe it really, just to be even playing Test cricket, to be given an opportunity and to go there and get a hundred in my first innings was, you dream of that sort of stuff and I'm so happy.

"I was [intent on a long stay], I just wanted to stay out there for as long as I could. They bowled pretty well yesterday and especially early I couldn't get away. I knew if I could just keep sticking to my guns I could hopefully get on top later in the day. It was just an amazing feeling, to be out there playing a Test match for your country is just something I've dreamt of my whole life and I can't believe it really."

Batting at No. 3 in place of the absent Ricky Ponting, Marsh walked out to the crease with a simple objective: bat as long as he could. In the end he was there for seven hours, perhaps the most significant 420 minutes of his cricket life. He spent most of it with his fellow West Australian Michael Hussey, who crafted his own innings of substance with a meticulous 142.

"It was just amazing, I said yesterday when I went out there, I wanted to stay out there for as long as I could," Marsh said. "What you dream of doing is playing Test cricket, and just having that chance was so surreal. I had a lot of fun out there.

"It was tough out there early, they bowled very well, and we had to respect that. I knew if I could just hang in there I could get over the line. I really enjoyed batting with Huss as well, especially today. To be out there with him when we both scored our hundreds was a very special day. He's a good man and he's certainly helped me out a fair bit since I've been playing international cricket."

Every ball of Marsh's innings was worried over by his father Geoff in the stands, and Shaun spoke of how emotional their reunion had been when the younger man was finally out. Tom Moody, the coach who gave Marsh the hard word to be serious about his cricket, was also valued company.

"It was pretty emotional to be honest with you," Marsh said. "[Dad] was very happy I could see and it was very emotional for him and I was trying to hold it back in, out there with Huss … just crazy really. I spoke with Tom before this Test and what Tom's done for me the last three years, to have him and my dad here was pretty special."

Marsh's efforts make him close to a certainty for the third Test in Colombo, despite Ponting's return, but the man himself was not daring to look beyond the next two days, when rain may threaten Australia's push for a series victory.

"It's out of my control," Marsh said. "All I'm worried about is playing this Test, that's all I can control and I'm loving every bit of it. We've got two days left and all I'm focusing on is trying to win this Test.

"I'm not too sure what Pup [Michael Clarke] is going to do, I think he's got a few ideas, whether we bat on for a little longer and try to push for that 270-280 lead or he declares straight away we'll just have to wait and see.

"[The weather] is not great at the moment, but we just have to wait and see, we can't worry about the weather. We've just got to worry about what we can do, and if we go out there and play some good cricket and get ourselves in a winning position that's all we can worry about."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo