Marsh’s talent was never been in doubt, but his lack of consistency – in his 44-match ODI career, he has so far managed just three centuries – meant that he has had to spend more time outside the Australian dressing room than inside it. It is in this context that his unbeaten 71, which was the cornerstone of Australia’s seven-wicket win over England in the third ODI at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Sunday (January 19), was important.
After England was restricted to 243 for 9, Marsh was equally supported by David Warner, whose 65 was his second fifty in three matches. They led the way, Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin played attractive cameos as Australia chased down the target with 60 balls to spare.
Marsh was included in the team only after the selectors decided to rest Shane Watson after the first match, and he has clearly made the best use of his opportunity. With two half-centuries in as many matches, he has played a key role in helping Australia wrap up the series 3-0, with two more games remaining.
The striking feature of Marsh’s innings was his controlled aggression. Many times in the past, he has been guilty of throwing away his wicket after getting his eye in, but on Sunday he showed a new kind of maturity that will only contribute to his growth.
When he came out to bat, Australia was 43 for 1, after Aaron Finch played an uppish drive off Chris Jordan straight into the hands of Ravi Bopara at cover. The wicket was in no way a hindrance for Warner, who welcomed Tim Bresnan by dispatching his first ball straight over the long-off fence.
Warner was at his attacking best. He was quick to pounce on anything that was short as he scored most of his runs off the back foot. He pulled and cut with authority and was equally impressive with drives.
Warner’s approach allowed Marsh to settle down, and he was sensible enough to rotate the strike. The pair put 78 runs, but it was the manner of their partnership that deflated England’s spirit.
After Warner was out – caught at cover off a full-length delivery from Ben Stokes – Marsh took up the responsibility of ensuring that Australia did not lose the platform. The cut shot – one of his strengths – fetched him most of his runs, and with Clarke playing so beautifully in front of the wicket, the pair added 51 runs off just 50 balls.
Clarke was done in by an in-cutter, but Marsh and Haddin ensured that Australia did not lose any more wickets and the pair wiped off the remaining 72 runs in 68 balls.
If Marsh and Warner were the stars of the second half of the game, it was the Australian fielding that set the tone for a comfortable victory. And no bit of action highlighted this more than Warner’s direct hit from the point boundary to send Ian Bell back. Incidentally, it was the 15th time Bell has been run out in an ODI, equalling the English record held jointly by Allan Lamb and Paul Collingwood.
Bell was the second wicket to fall after Alastair Cook had hit Nathan Coulter-Nile to cover where Glenn Maxwell dived in front to pull off the first good catch of the innings. Cook and Bell had put on 50 runs in quick time, and Cook, in particular, was aggressive.
Much had been written about Cook’s poor batting form and he came out positively, as if intent on proving his detractors wrong. He was particularly severe on James Pattinson, returning to the Australian side after six months following a stress fracture in his back, whom he drove and cut for fours off consecutive deliveries.
However, once the duo fell, Australia took control of the proceedings. Stokes, promoted to No. 3, swept Xavier Doherty but Clarke pulled off a spectacular catch at backward square-leg just inches from the ground, leaving the batsman looking dazed. Gary Ballance then failed to execute a cut properly and was caught by a running Daniel Christian at point.
Eoin Morgan repaired the innings with a skillful 54, and a 56-run stand with Bopara. But, the two of them were dismissed in the space of nine runs to hand the advantage back to Australia.
Haddin dived to his right to catch Bopara and Christian pulled off a diving catch in his follow through to send Morgan back. However, Morgan stood his ground, leading to an ugly spat between Jos Buttler, the non-striker at the time, and Clarke, before the third umpire gave the verdict in Australia’s favour.
Buttler and Stuart Broad did not make any impression and Finch took a well-judged catch at fine leg to send Chris Jordan back.
For Australia, Coulter-Nile was the most impressive bowler, returning figures of 3 for 46 and bowling 30 dot balls. It was only because of Bresnan’s unbeaten 29-ball 41 that England managed to reach 243.