Overlooked Shaun Marsh takes his chance
Australia's selectors have had a difficult summer and they were made to look foolish again when Shaun Marsh hit 110 against England two days after being left out of the World Cup squad. He may yet make the trip because Michael Hussey, the man he has replaced for this series, remains a major doubt due to his hamstring injury.
Marsh made a strong case that he should have been there by right, but his hopes of making the 15-man World Cup party weren't helped with the selectors able to select Tim Paine as a reserve keeper-batsman. Given Australia's batting woes this season, it's difficult to think why Marsh isn't playing a part across all formats. Mickey Arthur, his coach at Western Australia, rates him as talented as any batsman he has coached, although a first-class average 37.97, lower than his ODI mark, doesn't do him any favours
But even though his route to the subcontinent next month rests on the fortunes of others he isn't dwelling on being overlooked. "I'm never one to worry about selections," he said after Australia's 46-run win in Hobart. "I was disappointed not to get picked, but I see these games as an opportunity to improve my game at international level. It's given me a lot of confidence. I'm sure the guys who go over will do a great job."
England were due to face Marsh when they played Australia A, also at Hobart, in November but he pulled out due to injury. Andrew Strauss said they would need to come up with some new ideas. "He had a nice mix of getting ones and hitting boundaries," he said. "He's a player in good form and we'll have to look at how we could have done things differently."
By trade Marsh is opener, like his father Geoff, but his immediate chances for Australia appear to be in the middle order and he showed his adaptability in Hobart when he came in at No. 6 with the score 4 for 33. He added 100 with Cameron White then an unexpected 88 with Doug Bollinger for the ninth wicket to give Australia a defendable total.
"It was just a great opportunity for me," he said. "Huss going down was very unfortunate but it gave me my chance. It didn't matter where I batted for Australia, I just wanted to play. It's obviously different to opening but I knew once I got myself in, and started feeling good, I could play some shots. It was a lot of fun out there especially with Dougie at the end. We got our team to a competitive total and defended it well."
Marsh had plenty of praise for his unlikely tail-end partner. Bollinger had only batted four times in his previous 27 ODIs with a top score of three, but unfurled two cover drives during his run-a-ball 30. "Dougie was loving it out there," Marsh said. "It was a lot of fun. I was trying to tell him to rotate the strike and keep the ball on the ground. He played some wonderful shots, it was fantastic the way he went about it. Without him we probably wouldn't have got to 200."
Although Marsh is unlikely to break the opening combination of Shane Watson and Brad Haddin, Michael Clarke made it fairly clear that he wants to make use of Marsh's impressive form by using him higher up the order. "Shaun will definitely be playing in the next three games," Clarke said. "It's unlikely he'll be batting at No.6 as well, especially when he's hitting the ball as sweet as he is. He's in wonderful nick at the moment. He's certainly going to get opportunities if he plays like that."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo