The Ashes

Published on December 16th, 2017 | by Sakshi Gupta

0

Mitchell Marsh’s fairy tale at WACA

🕓 Reading time:6 minutes

Stuart Broad to Mitchell Marsh, a full delivery, Marsh square drives for a beautiful boundary, takes off his helmet and runs like no one is around. He closes his eyes, roars out aloud, looking up as he soaks the feeling of a maiden Test hundred.

The camera pans on ‘Swampy,’ Mitch’s father and former Australian cricketer, Geoff Marsh followed by a proud older brother Shaun in the changing room, who stands up applauding. Skipper Steven Smith, on the other end, gives Mitch a big tight hug.

The camera person certainly knew the art of bringing an overwhelming touch to the moment. He put the focus on the iconic WACA scoreboard that showed 100 beside Mitchell’s name. It was special because, on the non-match days, the scoreboard has the line-up of Western Australia’s best XI’s name, which included Mitchell’s father’s name too. All of these people were well aware of what the hundred meant to Mitchell. The moments in those few seconds would have forever etched in Mitchell’s memories.

Rewinding the time clock to 10 days, when Cricket Australia named Mitchell as Chadd Sayers’ replacement for the third Ashes Test, the move was termed as a nightmare. There was not one positive receiver of the news and nobody expected Mitchell to do what he did today. The selection news was broken just after Australia went 2-0 up in the Ashes and all that was discussed following it was Mitchell’s numbers that suggested he was the worst-ever No. 6 batsman in Test cricket. Prior to the Ashes third Test, he had batted 25 times at No. 6 and scored 473 runs at an average of 19.7. He had made just one half-century (53) and registered four ducks.

What triggered the anger was the fact that the selectors opted for Mitchell ahead of an in-form Glenn Maxwell, top-scorer of the ongoing Sheffield Shield season. There was no clarity on Cricket Australia’s move but confusion. If one took into consideration that Australia needed an extra seamer for the WACA Test and hence Maxwell was ignored, that was unclear too. Although Marsh cleared the fitness test post the injury he sustained in India, he wasn’t fully fit to bowl rigorously. The most he could bowl was maximum of seven to eight overs per innings.

The Marsh brothers – Shaun and Mitchell have faced some severe criticisms whenever they have failed. While Shaun was selected in the 14-man squad named before the series had started, Mitchell followed him mid-series. However, the reaction to their selections did not vary a lot. They have received enough chances and both the brothers have somehow not established themselves in the team due to the lack of consistent performances. Shaun had justified his selection with an unbeaten 126 at the Adelaide Oval, now it was the younger one’s turn.

Mitchell, as expected, did not bowl much. Out of England’s 115.1 overs in the first innings, Junior Marsh bowled only nine out of those. Despite bowling the least, his economy of 4.77 sadly was the worst among the others. That gave away some clarity that management wanted Mitchell, the batsman, to deliver, more than the all-rounder. Even before the Ashes had commenced, the selectors had looked for a batsman and not all-rounder for the No. 6 spot, believing that their pace attack of Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins were strong enough to go about with the pace department.

Mitchell, who was named the new captain of Western Australia ahead of the new season this year, has scored 315 out of his 402 runs at WACA this year in the Shield tournament. When Australia played their second Test in Adelaide, at the same time, Mitchell was at home and had scored a century against Queensland and hence had made his case stronger for the WACA Test.

England made a breakthrough quite early into the third day of the Perth Test. The moment was a strange one as the local crowd on the ground would not know if they were supposed to be happy or sad. More than the local crowd, the Marsh family would have been muddled as the older son Shaun walked back, dismissed for a mere 28 runs and the younger son, Mitchell, walked into the middle. He was back into the side after none long months; maybe, the family would have singled out to cheer for him.

It was best for Mitchell to keep the fear of failing yet again out of his mind. It was not the correct time for him to recollect batting at No. 6 as a nightmare. It might be his final opportunity to grab his place and not give up on the Baggy Green. If the WACA Test was considered as a breakthrough for Mitchell, then he not only pounced on the opportunity but also made the Aussie team look even better with his inclusion.

The role of a No. 6 batsman is simple and clear. If the team is in trouble, he has to repair the damage but if the bowlers have reached the exhausting phase, the batsman must know when to launch himself time and again, judging the correct balls. That’s exactly what Mitchell did on the third day. He had a well set Steven Smith on the other end, who was in the usual mood of shattering and making new records. Mitchell had a choice: he could either play the second fiddle to Smith and allow the latter to do the majority of scoring or he might as well join the party and push England to a vulnerable position.

Making the final Ashes Test at the WACA special, the Western Australia Captain Mitchell Marsh chose to do the latter. Whenever he got a chance, he drove straight down the ground and every time he did that, he ensured it looked elegant and even harder. He drove through the off-side too and while cutting, he was smart enough to pick the right gaps.

While he was on fire, the English attack was just not up to the mark. Along with Mitchell’s hundred and Smith’s double ton, the likes of Mooen Ali, Craig Overton, Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes also completed their respective centuries while bowling. The entire English attack managed to make only one breakthrough throughout the day. England’s arguably best bowler of this generation James Anderson had hardly bowled a no-ball in the last few years. And when he overstepped by a far distance, that summed up the crisis of the English in the current Test.

But, by suggesting Mitchell’s knock was because he played at home and against an out of form bowling attack, it would be harsh on the batsman, who batted for nearly eight hours, facing 234 balls. What made Mitchell’s innings more enchanting is that he never looked to play under the shadow of the run machine on the other end. Because Mitchell kept the boundaries coming from one end, Smith on the other side had the luxury to play freely. After Mitchell reached his first 50 off 75 balls, there was only a muted celebration because he knew the job was still unfinished.

With two back-to-back boundaries, he reached the landmark of his first Test hundred, it came in the Ashes made it more special. Mitchell allowed himself to relieve all the feelings and emotions that were suppressed in him for a very very long time. He said after the day’s play that he felt really relaxed before the Test and that made all the difference. Even when he entered the 90’s, he continued to punish the poor balls bowled at him and never got anxious of nearing the dream moment.

“I didn’t really feel too nervous in the 90’s, it was almost a bit of a weird feeling when I got in there. Any time you’re in the 90’s as a batsman you can’t help but not think about making a hundred. I just tried to focus on watching the ball as hard as I could,” he said.

The Australian skipper summed up the best what Mitchell’s innings was all about. “He defended the good balls and he gave away the loose ones at the boundary and batting is all about doing that,” Smith said during an interview after stumps of Day 3 at WACA.

WACA being no less than a graveyard for the overseas teams, especially England, two of their batsmen. David Malan and Jonny Bairstow managed to adapt to the conditions and score a century each. Their respective knocks put England on the driver’s seat with a huge first innings total of 403. However, by the time Day 3 ended, there was no sign of the England domination as Smith and Mitchell walked off the WACA field with scores of 229* and 181* and Australia were 549 for 4 with a lead of 146 runs. Mitchell’s knock was inclusive of 29 boundaries, one more than the captain himself in their record fifth wicket partnership of 301 runs in the Ashes.

Mitchell was struck with nostalgia when he remained unbeaten on Saturday. He revealed that behind the bar in the Marsh family home, there is a photo of Geoff walking off Trent Bridge with Mark Taylor after the opening pair batted all day for Australia against England during the 1989 Ashes. He grew up seeing that picture and today, he was extremely proud of emulating his dad.

Mitchell has planned a BBQ dinner with his family tonight to celebrate the memorable day with the loved ones. The Marsh family no doubt must be proud of the young member for his exceptional effort in a crucial Ashes innings. If at all numbers are discussed during the family dinners, Mitchell would surely tease Swampy and Shaun about surpassing them. Marsh now has the highest Test score at the WACA in the Marsh family (Shaun 63 and Geoff 53). If he goes on to stick around tomorrow, he can have the highest Test score among the Marsh family, outclassing Shaun’s 182.

Facebook Comments

Tags: , ,


About the Author

mm

More than a sport, sports persons have kept her engaged in work. She is a sports fanatic whose mantra in life is “do only what you enjoy". She tweets @sakshi2929.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to Top ↑