Shaun Marsh goes bang to stake Ashes claim

Scott Pryde Roar Guru

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    If there was ever a time for Shaun Marsh to make runs, this was it. He has been given countless opportunities in the Australian team, but yesterday – against the attack who will run onto the Gabba in the first Test match – he put his hand firmly in the air.

    After a half-century against the pink ball in the first round of the Sheffield Shield, and a duck in the first innings against New South Wales, he smacked the Blues attack around for 91, as part of a 179-run opening stand with wicketkeeping hopeful Cameron Bancroft.

    While many will bemoan the fact we are even mentioning Marsh again, form and circumstances have demanded we talk about him.

    Yesterday, I wrote about the lack of apparent openers in Australian cricket. It’s not far from the truth given we are talking about Marsh, who has had more chances than most, but he is demanding another look.

    Does Matt Renshaw need to be dropped for Brisbane?

    He made an attack featuring Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Patrick Cummins and Nathan Lyon look second rate, in a timely reminder to the national selection panel.

    Whether they will take a punt on Marsh is anyone’s guess, but it’s not hard to remember that he was in the Test team last summer and then toured India. For him to be given another opportunity would drive fans up the wall, but it may not be the worst option.

    Two good innings, both against good attacks and the first of those in trying conditions against the pink ball, illustrate that he is in some decent form.

    Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Matt Renshaw.

    As I detailed yesterday (met with mixed reactions from Roarers), the incumbent Aussie opener is struggling. He made 19 off 109 balls in his second innings at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and hasn’t gone close to making a half-century in his four Shield innings.

    Renshaw’s problem is that he hasn’t scored a great deal of runs in his last six Test matches. While he deserves to be there based on his century in the last Test of the 2016-17 summer, he doesn’t have long to show form in the present, particularly if Marsh keeps peeling off a score every second innings.

    As for Bancroft, in his first match of the season, he carried his bat to make 76 in the first innings before backing it up with 86 yesterday.

    Given the well-publicised struggles of wicketkeeper Matthew Wade – whose Shield season has yielded scores of 3, 6, 9 and 17, which doesn’t inspire confidence – Bancroft has thrown his hat into the ring as a smokey for the job come November 23.

    Other keeping possibilities Alex Carey and Peter Nevill have struggled with the stick during the opening two rounds, but Bancroft is clearly in form. However, while he was opening for Western Australia, it’s unlikely Bancroft would do the same in the baggy green, instead batting at No.7.

    Progress was also made in the race for No.6. Despite Jake Lehmann joining the list of bolters on Monday with a brilliant 93, Glenn Maxwell seems to have cut that race off at the start line, blasting his way to 64. It was his second half-century of the match and with Western Australian all-rounder Hilton Cartwright inconsistent, Maxwell is in the box seat.

    A century almost certainly would have sealed the day for the incumbent all-rounder, but it wasn’t too be as he was removed by Joe Mennie.

    Australia Test player Glenn Maxwell raises his bat

    AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi

    In other news, it’s becoming clear just how dangerous an in-form Starc can be. He picked up a second hat-trick in as many days to win the games for the Blues yesterday, against lower-order batsmen, while Hazlewood held an end down – as he so often does in the baggy green.

    After Chadd Sayers took wickets the previous day, Joe Mennie took over on the morning of Day 4, leading the Redbacks attack with 4-39 from 18 overs.

    It was a superb performance from Mennie and must put him into calculations as the squad’s first reserve bowler.

    Scott Pryde
    Scott Pryde

    One of the mainstays of The Roar, Scott Pryde has written over 1,100 articles covering everything from rugby league to basketball, from tennis to cricket. You can follow him on Twitter @sk_pryde.