India 189; Australia 6/237
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
Charles Dickens could easily have been referring to the two Marshes when penning these famous lines. And he would not have been talking about Shaun and Mitch; he would have been referring to the two Shauns. Let’s be honest. No-one has ever suggested that Shaun Marsh cannot hold a bat. Despite a middling first-class average which stubbornly hovers around 40, and despite the fact that, in sixteen years of top-level cricket, he has scored only 24 first-class centuries. The fact is he can bat, as anyone who witnessed Marsh’s hundred on debut for Australia, or indeed his fine 148 against the South Africans at Centurion, will tell you. He is stylish, technically correct, and is strong on both sides of the wicket.
And therein lays the foundation of the exasperations we all experience with Shaun Marsh.
The frustrations with Marsh the elder are multi-faceted. He appears to be perennially on the injured list, which conveys to the average punter a sense of fragility. Selection-wise, he would seem to be given more favourable treatment when he is available, which gives him a whiff of being “in the club”. And, of course, there is his inconsistency, for which the current Indian tour could be presented as “Exhibit A”. Two terrible dismissals in the first Test had many calling for Usman Khawaja’s return, but the Pune eleven were rightly rewarded for the famous victory. (It was instructive that the hitherto stable Indian line-up was tinkered with).
Had Shaun Marsh failed in this match, he may well have been on the outer for the remainder of the tour. But his innings in Bengaluru on day 2 was a study in concentration and graft, not to mention a further example of why he so greatly frustrates. Arriving at the wicket on the dismissal of a strangely agitated Steve Smith at 2/82, Marsh’s 66 off 197 balls was a study in patience. Peter Handscomb (22, 19, 16 thus far in this series) would do well to take a dose or two of patience syrup. Marsh batted as well as I have seen him, and given the already-deteriorating wicket, the importance of the knock cannot be understated.
Matt Renshaw has been a revelation thus far in India. In a number of well-documented comments, even coach Darren Lehmann had his doubts about the young Queenslander, suggesting after Sydney that the kid may not even tour. Renshaw has proved wrong the doubters, of whom I was one. Of his opening partner, the only comment I will make is that I hope the same “horses for courses” selection policy applied to Khawaja is being applied to David Warner also. Davey’s innings in India make interesting reading: 59, 23, 6, 26, 71, 2, 0, 8, 38, 10, 33 (average 25.1).
Another to apply himself was Matthew Wade. And, really, it is not before time. Wade has been underwhelming with the bat (and gloves?) since replacing Peter Nevill and desperately needs a big innings. I was impressed by his willingness to dig in – this is easily the best he has looked since re-selection.
For India, I thought Ishant Sharma was the pick of the bowlers, working up good pace and troubling Steve Smith especially. Although Ravi Jadeja (3/46) took the figures, he was strangely underbowled by Virat Kohli. And again there were a couple of costly chances which went begging in the field.
Whilst not impressing Mrs Smokie, who is yet to overcome her BBL-induced cricket fatigue, for me the evening timeslot (3pm to 10pm) easily lends itself to lazy afternoons of analysis and railing against Michael Clarke’s try-hard commentary. At least I can turn the volume down and switch to the Whateley-led ABC Grandstand descriptions. Unfortunately, I cannot do the same when Mitch Marsh comes to the crease: his continued selection in the Australian Test team is bewildering, and now borders on outright farce.
“…it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity…” In these last five words, Charles Dickens encapsulates Marsh the younger beautifully.