Australia’s Mitchell Marsh credited his superb match-defining 96 in the first Test in Durban to an improved defence.
Marsh fell agonisingly short of a hundred but set up the game for the Aussies after they found themselves 177/5 on the departure of his brother Shaun. But it was Mitchell’s innings that propelled the team towards what, in light of South Africa’s 162-run capitulation, looks a dominant total.
Marsh has averaged 104 with the bat since returning during the Ashes and has made the No.6 position his own. In Durban on day 2, Marsh showed off his now exemplary defensive method before controlling the game impressively while batting with the tail.
Maharaj picks up the wicket of Starc on the stroke of lunch to leave Australia on 300/8 at the break. Mitchell Marsh is still holding firm, unbeaten on 60*.#SAvAUS LIVE ➡️ https://t.co/VjXpm8SmSG pic.twitter.com/3NYGqTLAv1— ICC (@ICC) March 2, 2018
"It was an important innings and I was proud how I was able to bat with the tail,” Marsh said.
"I have worked extremely hard on my defence and keeping the good balls out.
“That's given me a lot more confidence to be patient. I used to be quite intense at the crease every ball, it wears you out. I try to keep my mind clear and it seems to have helped me."
After surviving the initial burst from South Africa's much-vaunted attack, boasting the swing and seam capabilities of Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel and the left-arm spin of Keshav Maharaj, Marsh gradually opened up with some now trademark hard hitting.
Four runs shy of his first overseas ton Marsh finally lost patience (or faith in his partners) and holed out to Vernon Philander. But South Africa’s later collapse proved just what a crucial innings it had been.
Marsh also paid tribute to Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon, the bowling pair who did the bulk of the damage by taking eight wickets between them to bowl out South Africa for 162.
Of Lyon he said: “His last 12 months has been amazing and you know he is always going to have an impact in the game."
And of Starc’s reverse-swing he said: “When you are bowling at that pace, it's almost impossible to play.”