Australia crumble in heat
ABU DHABI: Mitchell Marsh reaffirmed his standing as the heir apparent to Shane Watson but Australia’s vulnerability against spin bowling in foreign conditions was again cruelly exploited on Saturday.
Marsh accepts Watson is a walk-up start in the Test side when fully fit but “If you score enough runs they have to pick you”, he said of his chances of remaining in the side for the first Test against India in Brisbane next month.
Watson’s future appears to be at No.6 though Marsh’s promising start to his Test career combined with the moderate form of Alex Doolan at first drop has left the door ajar on both all-rounders featuring in the side.
Watson and Marsh have both been named in Australia’s squad for the first two one-day internationals against South Africa.
Marsh had a maiden Test century within reach but succumbed to the dual curse of 87 and 66.6 overs.
He was the bright light on another bleak day for the Australians in the Middle East.
Australia were dealt another blow with Brad Haddin not taking to the field in the second innings with his shoulder injury though he was able to bat, making 10. His arm was in a sling on Saturday.
Australia’s capitulation for 261 was the 10th time from their past 11 innings in Asia where they have failed to score 400.
Highlighting their woes this series, Australia’s batsmen have made just one century compared to Pakistan’s seven.
Marsh was the only player to pass 50 and clearly the most comfortable of the Australians.
The second-gamer said getting through the first 40 balls of his innings was what allowed him to succeed. Embarrassingly, only four players achieved that feat and two were tailenders – Nathan Lyon and Peter Siddle.
“I just went out there and tried to play my natural game, obviously it was a little bit tough losing a few wickets around me, but I just tried to put it out of my head and bat the way I do and it was good fun to get a few runs but we are behind the eight ball in this match,” Marsh said.
“There’s no doubt that we didn’t make enough runs as a batting group this innings. The wicket is pretty flat, their spinners bowled really well, they got the ball reverse swinging and it was a good all round effort from their bowling attack.”
Marsh entered this match with a first-class average of 28 but if his effort on Saturday was any guide it will not stay that low for long.
“I think over the last 12 months I have matured as a batsman and I have worked out what works for me and all cricketers growing up go through that period,” Marsh said.
“Just learning how I want to play, I probably got a little bit caught up when I came into the first-class scene of trying to play too cute and look like a real batsman, rather than just going out there, backing my own ability and taking the game on.
“Because that is when I play my best cricket and that is when most players play their best cricket and that’s been the best thing for me and hopefully that will continue.”
Marsh said he wanted to be aggressive against Pakistan, though the strategy did not serve many of his teammates well.
“Everyone has individual game plans but the way we are taught to play cricket is to take the game on so that was certainly what was going through my head,” Marsh said.
Marsh said he was nervous on debut but felt more relaxed in Abu Dhabi.
“I didn’t have 25 of the Marsh clan in the stands watching me so that made me feel a bit better,” Marsh said.
Pakistan chose not to enforce the follow on but are in a near impregnable position with two days remaining. The Australians have all but conceded they will not win this match and level the series.
“We’ve got a huge challenge ahead of us. Whatever total they set us will be a huge one and we’ll fight as hard as we can to hang on to this Test match,” Marsh said.
“If we get some early wickets you never know.”