Mitch Marsh needs to start scoring runs

Date: December 25, 2015 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

m marsh 1Mitch Marsh may well be asking Santa for an elixir that will help restore his batting.

The all-rounder will go into his 12th Test on Saturday badly in need of runs.

An innings of 87 in his second Test appearance – against Pakistan at Abu Dhabi in October 2014 – remains his only half-century.

In 19 innings at Test level he has made just 380 runs at 23.8. Worse still, his last 13 innings have produced a meagre average of 13.5.

There has been talk that ‘keeper Peter Nevill – who is averaging only 27.3 – should move to number six.

Much of the momentum for that push is predicated on Nevill’s first-class record where he boasts six centuries, a best of 235no, and an average of 41.0.

Marsh, by comparison, has a first-class batting average of 31.0.

Brad Haddin, Nevill’s predecessor behind the stumps, is adamant that his protégé’s place is number seven.

Regardless, Marsh has to start contributing more with the bat.

At 24, he has long been a project player for the national selectors. At a strapping 1.93m, he is renowned for his power hitting which was certainly on display in the lead-in to this year’s Ashes series.

In the run-in to the first Test at Cardiff he plundered two county attacks, scoring 101 (94) against Kent and 169 (188) against Essex.

Whilst that bowling was nowhere near international standard, Marsh has never approached his batting at Test level with the same aggressive intent – to date he has a Test strike rate of just 55.

Perhaps as a result of his inability to nail down the all-rounder’s spot, his Test batting has often been tentative and lacking in fluency.

He is currently very much a bowling all-rounder.

Whilst not prolific with the ball he has been able to claim key wickets at important times.

When he first burst onto the scene for Western Australia he regularly bowled in excess of 140km/h and was known for bowling a ‘heavy ball’.

He still hits the pitch hard but his pace is not what it was after a raft of injuries in his formative years at first-class level.

His 11 Tests to date have produced 17 wickets at 34.4. He is yet to claim a five-wicket haul with his best 3-30.

Marsh had a slow start with the ball, not taking a wicket until his fourth Test, having gone without through his first 55 overs.

In the current Australian line-up he is clearly the fourth pace bowler.

Off-spinner Nathan Lyon’s continuing improvement has allowed his skippers to use the quicks in reasonably short, sharp bursts, downwind which has limited the necessity for Marsh to contribute significant overs.

In his last sixteen innings in the field he has bowled in excess of ten overs on just three occasions.

The lack of overs increases the need for Marsh to produce more with the bat.

Australia’s selectors have been hell-bent on having an all-rounder in the side ever since Andy Flintoff produced a devastating performance in England’s drought-breaking Ashes win in 2005.

In Marsh’s favour is the fact that there are not a lot of players currently forcing the selectors’ hands.

Moises Henriques has tasted Test cricket, playing three matches during Australia’s ignominious 4-nil loss in India in 2013.

He fared reasonably well with the bat with two half-centuries but claimed just two wickets at 77.5.

His form in the Sheffield Shield this season has been unimpressive – in three games he has scored 47 runs at 15.7 and taken 2-114.

James Faulkner had a fine Test debut at The Oval in 2013, claiming match figures of 6-98 and scoring 22 and 23. He has not worn the baggy green since.

In Shield ranks this season he has scored 191 runs at 23.9 from four matches while taking 10 wickets at 32.

At first-class level he has been exceptionally effective with the ball with 180 wickets at 24.3.

With the willow he averages 31.3 but has scored just the one century from the 15 times he has passed 50 in his 56 first-class matches.

John Hastings has had a good Shield season thus far, albeit having played just the two games in which he averages 34.5 with the bat as well as claiming ten wickets at 14.7.

Glenn Maxwell is averaging 50 with the bat in Shield ranks this season but has claimed just three wickets at 45.3.

Ashton Agar, whilst not a number six, has had a stellar season with the bat, having scored two centuries in Shield ranks while averaging 44.2.

His bowling however has been far less impressive with just seven wickets at 63.6 from five matches.

Whilst there is not a standout replacement for the all-rounder position it is still incumbent on Mitch Marsh to start scoring runs or the selectors will be forced to look elsewhere.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 24 December 2015, soliciting 67 comments