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Match Analysis

Marsh ticks the right boxes as an evolved No. 3

Warner's first-ball duck needed someone to step up early, and Marsh did that for 18 overs

Sidharth Monga
Sidharth Monga
Mitchell Marsh started quickly, then slowed down, got to a fifty, and then picked up speed again  •  BCCI

Mitchell Marsh started quickly, then slowed down, got to a fifty, and then picked up speed again  •  BCCI

The match is about to start. Sarfaraz Khan has marked the guard, Mayank Agarwal has set the field, and then David Warner realises it is Liam Livingstone bowling the first over. So Warner decides he will take first strike, Agarwal flips the field again, and finally the first ball is sent down. It is a wide offbreak, Warner goes after it, the ball turns and jumps, and he is out first ball.
Is Warner cursing himself for changing things up at the last minute? What is Mitchell Marsh thinking when he crosses Warner? How is he going to react to the situation? His side has lost the toss, they have to quickly assess the conditions with their key batter gone first ball and then go about setting a dew-proof total in what is practically a must-win match. There isn't much time to do all that.
It took Marsh four balls to assess the conditions and the situation, and then launch a counterattack on Kagiso Rabada, which included successive sixes down the ground. However, equally impressive was how he retreated after that attack because first Sarfaraz got on a roll and then the Punjab Kings spinners bowled well on a helpful pitch.
"Get as many as I get in the powerplay before it starts turning," Marsh, who top-scored with 63, told Star Sports when asked what his reading of the conditions was. "I think in the last 18 months or so I have had that mentality in the powerplay. It was a really good partnership with Sarfaraz. He played some amazing shots. Would have been nice to get out of the powerplay one down and then we probably could have kept going. But our innings was sort of stop-start, stop-start with the wickets."
Marsh ticked three boxes in the powerplay itself. He read the conditions perfectly, was selfless in starting a counterattack, but then took on the responsibility of batting through once he saw the younger batter strike well and then get out just before the powerplay ended.
This was only the seventh time that Marsh had played 48 or more balls in a T20 innings. Barring a 100-run chase in which you can afford to bat slowly, this was his slowest innings of such a length.
There's a reason why no big hitter is considered a complete performer until he does it in the second half of an IPL season where pitches begin to slow down and the spinners start dominating proceedings. It shows in Marsh's numbers that he has not been tested much on that front, but also over the last 18 months or so he has played a lot of T20 cricket in these conditions, especially when losing in Bangladesh and in the West Indies just before the World Cup that they won in the UAE.
That experience has helped turn Marsh, who traditionally prefers pace on the ball, into a more complete T20 batter, who might still not be great at dominating spin but someone who can target his bowlers better, and then play out the others. Twenty overs is not a lot of time and can induce panic if you play a few dots, which is kind of what happened with the Kings batters in the chase and they didn't even give themselves a chance for when the dew set in for the last eight overs of the chase.
In his resurrection as a T20 batter, Marsh has played that final-winning innings, has scored a Big Bash hundred, and won Capitals the last match, but the most impressive thing has been his turnaround as a player of spin. Before Australia turned him into a No. 3 in July 2021, Marsh had faced 692 balls of spin for a strike rate of just 101.58. Since the promotion up the order, though, Marsh has gone 123.21 per hundred balls of spin, which is quite acceptable for someone who scores at 144.53 against pace.
These are not sensational numbers by themselves but serviceable stats for an anchor. Add to them his ability to read then conditions, know when to strike and dovetail with his batting partners, and you have a solid T20 batter. Now he is even doing it in the second half of the IPL, which calls for high levels of precision from those setting up to play long innings.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo