The ninth coming of SOS
Maligned.Inconsistent.Injury prone.Overrated.Flashy.Only in the team because of his surname. A lot of terms have been used to describe Shaun Marsh over the years, some fair, some uncalled for.
However it is no secret the exquisitely talented left-hander has not made the most of his opportunities at the highest level, nor has he always had the run of games that would allow him to do so.
Marsh’s career could have so easily ended as one of what ifs, of unfulfilled potential, and of faith unrepaid. Instead, with a glorious maiden Ashes hundred when his side was in trouble he might just have started writing a new chapter, the ninth, in the story of Shaun Marsh: Australian Test batsman.
From an early age the older Marsh brother had been touted as a future star of Australian cricket, however the consistent performances in Sheffield Shield cricket never came. There were always glimpses, brilliant innings littered between innocuous failures. Then in 2011 he was handed his first Baggy Green in Sri Lanka, making a century on debut, and so began the soap opera of his international career.
Since his dazzling debut century Marsh has been in and out of the Test team, either dropped after a poor run of form or falling victim to his own fragile body – often when the runs are just starting to come.
Typical of many left handers Marsh is a treat to watch when on song. Technically sound and a gifted stroke player there are elements of Mike Hussey and Kumar Sangakkara to the way Marsh bats – and that’s some compliment. However he is a long way from achieving the status of those two legends of the game.
An average of 38.88 with five hundreds after 25 Tests doesn’t do justice to Marsh’s undeniable ability and talent. Eight ducks in 45 innings also suggests a nervy starter. But how can a batsman have confidence at the start of his innings when every Test could be his last?
Nicknamed SOS for Son of Swampy, Marsh lived up to the other meaning of the abbreviation in Adelaide. Coming to the crease with his side 161/4 is hardly a horrible platform, but had Marsh failed England would have been just a wicket away from the tail and right on top in the match after electing to bowl first under overcast skies.
Instead Marsh got through the initial tricky period to put on crucial partnerships with Peter Handscomb, Tim Paine and Pat Cummins. The West Australian was happy to play second fiddle to Handscomb and particularly Paine, before showing off his array of shots around the ground when accompanied by the tail.
In the end Marsh’s 231 ball 126 not out was not only innings defining, but match-winning with Australia’s first innings 442/8 declared proving to be crucial in the result, especially after their second innings collapse for 138.
The 34 year old’s efforts were recognised with his first man of the match award in Test cricket and his teammates’ appreciation was clear for all to see. There have been many false dawns in Marsh’s stop-start career, but a match-winning Ashes century is just about as big as it gets for an Australian cricketer. Could this innings be the defining moment of his career?
It might just be the innings that leads to sustained success at Test level, therefore changing the language that will be used to describe his career.
Akash is a Perth based journalist and sports writer who loves nothing more than watching people bowl fast. He’s played three seasons in the UK as an overseas professional and is still active in WA Premier Cricket
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