Sri Lanka v Australia, 3rd Test, SSC, Colombo, 1st day September 16, 2011

Worked on leaving the ball well - Marsh

Of all the areas in which Shaun Marsh has excelled in his first two Test innings, leaving the ball unless he has to play it must sit near the top. Marsh has succeeded in forcing Sri Lanka's bowlers to bowl at him, opening up bountiful regions for scoring provided he is patient. Speaking after making 81 out of Australia's 235 for 5 on day one of the third Test in Colombo, Marsh said he had placed a heavy emphasis on his judgment of what to leave.

"One thing I've really tried to work hard on in my first two games is leaving the ball well, leaving the ball with intent," Marsh said. "I've worked really hard with Tim Nielsen to make sure I'm really on my game out there, and on being nice and positive in my defence. It's worked well so far.

"I guess that has a little bit to do with me playing at the WACA [in Perth] as well. You do leave a lot of balls over there, and I've really tried to make sure that if the ball's not in my hitting area, to let it go, and just try and get myself in."

Marsh's strength of mind stood out in his 141 on debut, and it was on show again as Australia struggled for runs at the Sinhalese Sports Club. "I knew I had a job to do. I was just looking forward to having another opportunity to do a job out there. Just looking forward to the challenges," Marsh said. "I've really enjoyed my first two innings in Test cricket. Loved every bit of being out there with the boys.

"They [Sri Lanka] bowled really well today. The ball was swinging a fair bit and the wicket was a little bit tacky in that first session, a bit two-paced. It was a tough challenge out there today. That's what Test cricket's all about."

The day had begun with Australia's captain Michael Clarke telling Marsh he would remain at No. 3, pushing Ricky Ponting, Clarke and Michael Hussey down the order to accommodate him. It was quite a moment for Marsh, given that he had not ruled out being dropped to make room for Ponting.

"I knew someone had to miss out and if it was me, so be it. I wasn't too bothered, I was just going to take it on the chin," Marsh said. "When Pup [Clarke] told me this morning [I was batting at No. 3] it was a huge honour. It didn't really matter where I batted, I wasn't too fussed, but it's a great opportunity.

"It's just an absolute privilege to be out there. You don't get too many bad balls, I've worked out. It's a tough grind, really tests your concentration and that's what I expected and what I've been told [to expect in Test cricket] by the players and my old man [Geoff Marsh]."

Sri Lanka's debutant Shaminda Eranga, meanwhile, said his first ball dismissal of Shane Watson had not been entirely an accident. Watson drove uppishly at Eranga's first ball in Test cricket and the slight miscue was taken at point, in a scenario Eranga said had been discussed by the hosts.

"As a team, we talk about how each batsman bats and we have a fair idea about the weakness and positives of the batsmen. Whether to bowl straight or bowl just outside off stump," Eranga said. "The first ball I bowled at Watson was outside the off stump and that was something that we had discussed."

Eranga was part of a solid Sri Lankan bowling ensemble that included three pacemen - an exceptionally rare event at home.

"I thought to myself that I will do well if I get an opportunity," Eranga said. "So when I got my Test cap I was really happy and from the moment I got the ball into my hand I just wanted to do my best. I had worked hard at practice and today was a case of letting out all that I had done at training. I had a simple plan and I just did that and the wicket came my way."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo