Australian selectors have got it wrong for most of the summer, and Shaun Marsh ensured that his omission from the 15-man squad for the 2011 World Cup would be added to that list with his match-winning century in the second ODI against England at Brisbane today.
Marsh may yet make the World Cup should Michael Hussey fail to regain full fitness after his hamstring injury earlier this week. Marsh, in fact, had been named as Hussey's replacement for the second, third and fourth matches in the ongoing Commonwealth Bank Series, and as expected was named in the starting line-up for today's match.
Marsh is an opening batsman, but given that Shane Watson and Brad Haddin are Australia's preferred opening pair, the southpaw was penned to bat at No. 6 for only the second time in his ODI career. Ironically, that has been the senior Hussey's position, and like him Marsh came into the middle during an all-too familiar Australian top-order collapse.
Australia had slipped to 33 for 4 in the 13th over when Marsh, playing his 30th ODI, joined Cameron White as most of the hosts' top-order batsmen failed to come to terms with the pace of the Bellerive Oval pitch and also struggled against England's pace trio of Chris Tremlett, Ajmal Shahzad and Tim Bresnan.
Marsh has been in terrific form for Western Australia in recent months, and he brought that form into this match, as he and White started to repair the early damage. Marsh came into bat with a positive mindset and from early in his knock itself he looked a class apart from the rest of Australia's batsmen in this match. The fact that he out-scored the normally aggressive White during their 100-run partnership for the fifth wicket is an indication of Marsh's confidence and ability. Marsh, who got to his half-century off 64 balls, kept the scoreboard ticking over without taking too many risks and he was well supported by White, before the latter was well caught by Michael Yardy off his own bowling in the 33rd over.
White's dismissal was the start of another mini-collapse as Australia slipped to 142 for 8 in the 37th over as Steven Smith, Nathan Hauritz and Brett Lee failed to lend any support to Marsh and at this stage the hosts were in serious danger of being bowled out for a sub-175 total. But, Marsh found an unlikely partner in No. 10 Doug Bollinger as the duo added 88 runs for the ninth wicket (an Australian record in ODIs).
Marsh, who was on 59 when Lee was dismissed, then gave ample evidence of his cricketing acumen, when he decided to take the batting power play in the 38th over. He had realised that the best chance for Australia to put a competitive total could only have been achieved by taking some calculated risks. Thirty-six runs came off the batting power play and this set things up nicely for Marsh to go for the final charge with Bollinger also hitting some lusty blows. Marsh also showed confidence in Bollinger by not shielding him and the burly pace bowler reposed the faith placed in him by scoring 30 runs in as many deliveries.
Marsh did get a reprieve when Shahzad failed to hold on to a tough return catch when the southpaw was on 61, but apart from that, the Western Australia batsman put away loose deliveries in style as he also used his feet well and ran well between the wickets. He reached his run-a-ball century in style with a six over midwicket in the last ball of the 45th over bowled by Yardy; he had also hit consecutive boundaries in the previous two deliveries.
This was Marsh's second century in ODIs. His maiden century and career-best score of 112 had come against India at Hyderabad in November 2009. And, just when it looked as though Marsh and Bollinger would bat out the overs, Tremlett (3-22), who was the best of the England bowlers, dismissed them off successive deliveries with the left-handed Marsh the last batsman out as Australia was bowled out for 230 in the 49th over with 10 balls left in the innings.
But Marsh's knock of 110 (114 balls, 8x4, 2x6) and an all-round performance by Bollinger who also took four wickets in England's innings, helped Australia beat the visitors by 46 runs and take a 2-0 lead in the seven-match series.
It had been felt the selectors had erred in leaving Marsh out of the World Cup squad, and after his match-winning innings in adverse circumstances, Andrew Hilditch and his colleagues are bound to be under the scanner yet again. Marsh could still make it to the World Cup at the expense of Hussey, but in reality, he should already have been in the squad at the expense of either David Hussey or Steven Smith.eed to work closely with the youngsters, to comfort them so they are not intimidated by this level of cricket."