Australia’s much-celebrated crushing defeat of India in the First Test in Pune has guaranteed the foreseeable playing future of every single player, including Shaun and Mitchell Marsh. You just don’t mess with a winning formula, especially when it has been so many painful years since the last Baggy Green success on the dusty decks of India.
In the lead-up there had been much speculation about the make-up of the team to take on the toughest tour in International Cricket. Australia had bitten the bullet after losing the first two Tests of the summer against South Africa and put a broom through the side, sweeping out deadwood such as Joe Burns, Adam Voges, Peter Nevill and Callum Ferguson. Ferguson in particular had been given a full two innings to prove himself and was found wanting.
Up stepped England discard Matt Renshaw, Victorian stump-stomper Peter Handscomb and the endless and mostly untapped talent of Nic Maddinson. Keeper-batsman Matthew Wade was also deemed good enough with the gloves to take over from wicket-keeper Peter Nevill, who was struggling with the bat.
Renshaw and Handscomb were brilliant additions, selectors nodded knowingly and Australia entered a new era, even if Wade’s contributions were proving to be uncomfortably familiar. Australia won the final Test against South Africa, before relentlessly sweeping Pakistan aside, but not before Maddinson was sent back to Shield cricket to find his elusive form. In the final Test at the SCG, Maddinson was replaced by Hilton Cartwright, the latest in a long line of all-rounders as the selectors continued their never-ending search to find the new Simon O’Donnell.
All the pieces for India were falling into place, and sub-continent specialist Shaun Marsh was returning from injury. The fact that Marsh had some success against Sri Lanka on turning pitches meant that India would surely suffer a similar fate. Dump Cartwright after one Test and bring back Mitchell Marsh and Australia were set to tour.
No one, especially Usman Khawaja, expected both Marsh boys to play in the First Test, but when they scored big runs against India A on an unbelievably green pitch, they could not be denied. Khawaja did absolutely nothing against India A to advance his cause, mainly because he wasn’t selected.
So to Pune where Australia completely dominated on a surface described by Shane Warne as a “Day 8 pitch”. With the Indian spinners turning the ball sideways from the opening delivery it was a gallant effort by Australia’s batsmen to score 260 in the first innings. Shaun Marsh spent over an hour crafting 16 runs off 55 deliveries. His brother Mitchell managed an all-rounder’s contribution of 4 runs off 18 deliveries.
Australia captain Steve Smith took a big risk in the field by not throwing the ball to Mitchell at all, but Steve O’Keefe stepped up to help roll the much-feared Indian batting line-up for 105.
In Australia’s second innings, Shaun was thrown in as opener due to Renshaw spending most of the Indian first innings on the toilet. He gallantly survived a total of 21 balls over a period of 20 minutes on an increasingly impossible pitch. Batsmen with less experience and expertise in those conditions might not have survived nearly as many. It was an innings of pure focus, completing the much underrated opener’s job of seeing the shine off the new ball.
Mitchell really stepped it up with a fine 69-minute innings of 31 runs. Australia powered to 285 runs and the Test was in the bag.
The Marsh boys contributed a total 51 runs, which proved vital in the 333-run First Test victory. All-rounder Mitchell wasn’t required to bowl a single delivery, so he’ll be fresh and raring to go. They will take their place in the Second Test a Bangalore, where another Australia victory will make it even harder to drop either of them.