By George, it could be worse, Shaun!

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TO SAY Shaun Marsh is out of form in Test cricket is beyond an understatement – but it could be, and has been, worse, writes RON REED:

 

SO HERE’S the good news for Shaun Marsh: Six single-figure scores in a row does not necessarily get you the sack from the Australian cricket team.

Well, it didn’t for George Bonner – although that was back in the dawn of cricket time, and even big George might struggle for selectorial largesse these days in the fashion he seems to have done in his day.

According to one of the many diligent stats men frequenting the media area in Adelaide – cricket analysis has become a flourishing growth industry as the most cursory examination of Twitter will confirm – Bonner was the last Australian specialist batsman not to reach 10 six times in a row. But he didn’t stop there. He racked up 10 such scores before being shown the door.

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As with Marsh, he must have been a bit of a selectors’ pet. He played 17 matches between 1880 and 1888, 10 of them in England, where he toured no fewer than four times in the days when Australia visited every two years, not four.

He managed to make one century (in a session) and two scores in the eighties but 19 of his 30 innings were single-figures and he averaged only 17, which makes you wonder why he stayed aboard for so long. Or why he was ever picked at all, given he played 148 first class matches for an average of 21. Possibly, it was because he was a huge man, 6ft 6in in the old, whose claim to fame was his prodigious hitting. A couple of big ones were recorded at 160 yards, and might have been worth 10 not six. Legend has it that at The Oval in 1880 he whacked one so high that he and his partner had almost completed their third run before one of the Grace brothers, G.F, caught it on the boundary. “My heart stopped beating while I waited,” Grace said.

If Marsh had got out that way in Adelaide on Friday it would have at least been more entertaining than the reality, which was an abysmal poke at one of the world’s best spin bowlers, Ravi Ashwin, which succeeded only in edging onto his stumps.

He made 2 in 19 balls, which follows scores of – reading backwards – 4, 3, 0, 7, 7, 16, 0, 26, 1, 24, 33 and 40, which is 13 digs for an average of 12. The upshot, naturally, was another social media firestorm which can be adequately summed up thus: When will enough be enough for a batsman who now averages less than 35?

That’s from 35 matches, which in itself should be a valuable asset in a team so desperately in need of experience – again according to the stats men, you have to go back to the days of World Series when a completely new team had to be assembled to find a top six with fewer Tests.

But Marsh’s failure to contribute is adding to the pressure on his colleagues, not alleviating it.

And there is a lot of it about. Every one of the specialist batsmen and down to captain Tim Paine, who is also expected to contribute runs at No 7, has an extra layer of stress to cope with in one form or another. Perhaps Usman Khawaja is an exception but he’s not exactly Steve Smith, is he? And he didn’t look all that comfortable as he took 125 balls to make 28.

Of the others, only home-town hero Travis Head truly impressed with a composed and ultimately classy 61 not out, a level above anything else on offer. There were plenty of experts insisting the collective effort might be better than it necessarily looked because it wasn’t an easy track to bat on. With both teams staggering to 6-127, that sounds fair enough – but there were still some pretty ordinary shots played, by both sides.

The upshot was that Australia finished a tough day two at the office pretty much on level terms, 59 behind with three wickets left, including Head – but still under suspicion that a batting line up left bereft of its star power by the ball-tamper bans will find it a challenge to compile match-winning scores as the series goes on.

mm

Author: Ron Reed

RON REED has spent more than 50 years as a sportswriter or sports editor, mainly at The Herald and Herald Sun. He has covered just about every sport at local, national and international level, including multiple assignments at the Olympic and Commonwealth games, cricket tours, the Tour de France, America’s Cup yachting, tennis and golf majors and world title fights.

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