“The lean patch of the Marsh brothers hasn’t helped Australia’s causes at all in this series. With the second Test in Pakistan’s grasps once again, it is high time that both of them stepped up”
The place of the Marsh brothers, Shaun and Mitchell Marsh, in the Australian Test team, has always been questioned for their underwhelming individual performances every time. Their performances were always on a downward spiral until they revived their careers with a splendid run of form in the Ashes, 10 months back, at home. Both of them scored two centuries in the five-match series with Shaun having 445 runs to his name at an average of 74.16 and younger brother Mitchell having 320 runs at an average of 106.67.
However, as Australia embarked upon their overseas journey after a memorable Ashes victory, the Marsh brothers were back to square one once again. They have had a torrid time with the bat in their last 11 Test innings. While elder brother Shaun has averaged a dismal 14.27 during this period, younger brother Mitchell has only done marginally better with an average of 18.27. In fact, that difference of 4.00 in their averages is a result of Mitchell’s knock of 96 runs against South Africa in the first of those 11 innings. If we exclude that, his numbers read even worse than that of Shaun.
Although Australia won the first Test in South Africa earlier this year, they were beaten comprehensively in the next three Tests, thus losing the series by a 3-1 margin. And just like any other Australian batsmen, the Marsh brothers had a terrible outing with the bat to add to the miseries of the ball-tampering controversy that the team was already going through.
Shaun averaged 18.38 in the entire series without any score of 50 to his name. Even though Mitchell Marsh raised everyone’s hopes with his knock of 96 in the first match, he scored just 80 more runs in the rest of the series at an average of 11.42.
And now, they have carried that poor run of form with them to their tour of Pakistan as well. The brothers have a combined score of 35 runs in the series with Shaun having just 10 of those runs to his name in three innings. Shaun’s scores in the three innings read 7,0 and 3 respectively. The 26-year old, on the other hand, has registered double-figure scores on two occasions. But that hardly had any kind of impact on Australia’s chances in the series as both of them were low scores under 20.
Moreover, each of the Australian batsmen have played their parts in the series. Usman Khawaja and Aaron Finch were splendid in the first match with the former registering a century and a fifty in the two innings and the latter coming up with a fifty in the first and just a run shy of another half-century in the second innings.
Although Travis Head got dismissed for a duck in his debut innings, he showed tremendous resolve and courage with a knock of 71 runs in the second innings. Even skipper Tim Paine showed what he can do as he remained unbeaten on 60-odd runs to draw the match. Even though Marnus Labuschagne hasn’t had the best times with the bat, he has chipped in with valuable contributions with the ball.
Only the performances of the Marsh brothers have been a disappointment from an Australian perspective. Even if they could have made decent contributions with the bat, the series could have gone on a totally different way. Australia needed the duo to step up when the Australian top-order failed in their first innings of the second Test. However, they disappointed once again, thus deteriorating Australia’s condicond in the match further.
The fact is that they cannot afford these kind of performances at all. They can’t take their places in the squad for granted. Mitchell Marsh still has age on his side but he should realise that he is now the vice-captain if the side as well. So, he has responsibility towards that position if not anything else.
As far as the 35-year old Shaun Marsh’s case is concerned, these kind of slip-ups could cost dearly him.
He should remember that he is on the wrong side of the 30s and he is not helping himself much with such poor scores over such a long period of time. Former Australian great Mike Hussey also expressed the same thoughts while commentating on Wisden Radio.
“At the end of the day, you do need to score run,” Hussey said.
“There’s going to be a lot of discussion about his place in the team. When he’s on song, he’s just unstoppable and looks a supreme batsman. But then when he does start having a run of low scores, he gets into his hole and he finds it extremely difficult to work his way out of it. It must be frustrating for him. Once you start getting into your 30s, mid-30s, you can’t afford to have a run like that,” Hussey added.
Pakistan are in the driving seat now in the second Test as well and hence will look to post another daunting target for the Australians to chase down. They missed the opportunity of a victory in the previous Test but they will be careful now. And for Australia to salvage another unlikely draw, it is important for the Marsh brothers to step up and perform.