Shaun Marsh makes his pitch for Test retention
Australians 348 for 3 (Marsh 114, Rogers 84, Smith 71*, Clarke 56, Hunn 3-78) v Kent
Late in a balmy day at Canterbury, one exuberant but unmistakably composed spectator ventured onto the field carrying a tent. He proceeded to set it up on the outfield and get into it, before stripping down to his underwear and emerging to cheers from a gathering in the region of 5,000 spectators.
To make the XI for the first Investec Test in Cardiff, Shaun Marsh needed to make himself similarly conspicuous. Against an agreeable Kent, he glided to a hundred surely enough, but his final tally was only 30 runs more than Chris Rogers himself, as the two apparent rivals put on an assured 181 for the first wicket.
In their tour opener, Australia's batsmen were barely tested by the team presently propping up the bottom of the Division Two table in the County Championship, and the conditions themselves were as pleasant for batting as anything one could find in the British Isles. Time in the middle was welcome nonetheless, something Steven Smith and Michael Clarke were also able to enjoy in a smooth stand before the close arrived at 348 for 3.
Kent's captain Sam Northeast won the toss, and it was in keeping with the way many a tour match is played that he proceeded to offer the Australians first use of the pitch. For any other match Northeast would surely have batted, but the prospect of two full innings by the tourists offered welcome time in the middle for Clarke's men while also ensuring healthy gate takings and a fourth day finish for the hosts. A slightly unholy bargain, if a traditional one.
Most interest at the ground centred on how Marsh and Rogers would fare. On the face of it, Rogers should be expected to slip straight back into the team after missing out on the two West Indies Tests due to concussion. However there are several factors the selectors may be moved to consider on the contrary.
First of all, Rogers is 37 and not planning to play on after this series. Secondly Marsh is a younger man with an attitude and technique that may finally be maturing after a very long period of cricketing adolescence. Thirdly, the possibility of a dry summer and pitches similarly easy-paced to this one would alleviate some of the doubts harboured about Marsh's ability to combat a swinging, seaming ball.
All this was into the bargain as Marsh and Rogers set out together, ball seldom beating the bat and regularly skating to the ropes. Ivan Thomas and Mitchell Claydon were rarely threatening, though the latter did tease out the only chance of the morning, a Rogers edge turfed by Adam Riley at second slip when the opener had 19.
That brief upset did not faze Rogers, who had entered the match still smarting from the banning of his planned hospitality packages for the Lord's Test. On match eve Rogers had commented he was "pretty good at getting on with it", and he proved that again here, helping Marsh past a hundred stand, past lunch and ultimately to the middle of the day before he was pinned lbw by Matt Hunn, having stayed on the crease to a ball of fullish length.
Rogers' exit signalled a change in what had previously been a fairly sedate tempo, as Smith set off as though intent upon answering the various charges against his technique and ability that have emanated from Graeme Swann, among others. Marsh was happily taken up in Smith's slipstream, and soon saluted first-class hundred No. 15, also his second since arriving in the Caribbean last month.
Tea came and went, and then so did Marsh, offering the kind of slog at Hunn that suggested he had been asked to move things along. Smith was completely assured, nurdling singles to long leg when he wasn't cuffing respectable deliveries to the boundary, and overall giving the impression that he was better than this sort of bowling company.
Clarke was a little jerkier, a little less certain, but he found his timing and power after a few overs in the middle, and moved with growing confidence to 56 whereupon he tickled Hunn down the legside and into the gloves of Sam Billings. It will be a source of some concern for Clarke that he has barely played a single innings of more than 90 minutes' duration since his return from hamstring surgery during the World Cup, even if passing 50 has not been a problem for him.
Enough time remained for Shane Watson to find the boundary before stumps arrived, and he will hope for more on day two - his duel with the younger Mitchell Marsh for the allrounder's berth is even tighter than that between Rogers and Shaun.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig