WHEN Shaun Marsh joined Yorkshire last season I asked him about his international ambitions.
He had recently lost his place in the Australian side and, a fortnight short of his 34th birthday, he did not seem overly optimistic about getting it back.
“I certainly haven’t given up the dream of playing for Australia again, but I probably know at my age that I have to score a mountain of runs to get back in,” he admitted.
“It’s a long way away at the moment, but, if I put runs on the board, you never know.
“It all starts here (at Yorkshire), and then I need a strong start to the season back home (with Western Australia).
“But it’s not something I’m really thinking about at the moment; I want to perform well for Yorkshire in the T20s, first and foremost, and maybe some back-end red-ball cricket and go home with a few runs under my belt.”
Marsh, who defied England on the second day of the Ashes Test in Brisbane, scoring 44 not out as he and captain Steve Smith (64 not out) led Australia to 165-4 in reply to 302, was a controversial selection to play at the Gabba.
It was the eighth time that he had been recalled to the Test arena since he made his Test debut in 2011, prompting some to draw a similarity with the number of lives traditionally enjoyed by a cat.
His performances for Yorkshire were steady rather than spectacular: 517 runs in all cricket at 57, swelled by 203 runs in his final game, followed by 648 in all cricket for Western Australia this winter at 58, with a greater spread of consistency.
But with a paucity of viable alternatives for the No 6 position, Australia went back to a man with a Test average of 36 from 23 matches primarily, it seemed, because he has been around the block and is a safe – or at least a safe-ish – pair of hands.
With a paucity of viable alternatives for the No 6 position, Australia went back to a man with a Test average of 36 from 23 matches primarily, it seemed, because he has been around the block and is a safe – or at least a safe-ish – pair of handsThe YP’s Chris Waters
The wisdom of that decision was evident yesterday when Marsh helped to rescue Australia from 76-4.
Had he got out at that stage, England would have been totally on top and well on the way to ending Australia’s 29-year unbeaten run in Brisbane Tests, with Tim Paine – making his first Test appearance for seven years – the next man in.
Instead, Marsh and Smith ensured that the match remained supremely poised going into day three after England collapsed from 246-4 to lose their final six wickets for 56 runs.
The pair added 89 in 37.1 overs to keep the English attack at bay, with the series having already shown the strengths and weaknesses of two sides who could yet serve up a seven-week feast of nip-and-tuck cricket, a classic of the genre.
Marsh, who resisted for 122 balls and struck seven fours, went a significant way towards vindicating the faith of the Australian selectors, just as James Vince, Dawid Malan and Mark Stoneman justified the backing of their English counterparts.
Indeed, after failures for “banker” batsmen Joe Root and Alastair Cook, runs came from all three of England’s problem positions of two, three and five, coincidentally bad news for Yorkshire captain Gary Ballance, who looked on as rival Malan scored 56 from No 5.
From a personal perspective, Marsh’s contribution was even more timely given that his chief rival for the No 6 slot, Glenn Maxwell, scored a maiden double hundred yesterday for Victoria against New South Wales.
Maxwell, who played for Yorkshire in 2015, and who had been called to the Gabba prior to this Test as injury cover for Marsh (back) and David Warner (neck), only to not be required, could yet force his way into the side at the expense of another batsman, with Marsh potentially pushed further up the order.
All that is for the future, but Marsh certainly showed yesterday what Yorkshire saw in him, and also what Glamorgan have seen in him by last week snapping him up as their overseas player for the next two seasons, a quality replacement for another former Yorkshire batsman in the shape of Jacques Rudolph, who retired recently.
Although traditionally a nervous starter when he comes into bat, there were few signs of trepidation – outwardly at least – as Marsh got off the mark with a beautiful cover-driven four yesterday off James Anderson.
The left-hander then rocked back to cut Moeen Ali for four and was particularly swift to seize on anything wide. Chris Woakes was cut and pulled to the boundary, Ali was clipped for further fours through mid-wicket and cover – Marsh using his feet well against off-spin.
When he bats like that, it is not hard to see why Australia have continued to go back to him in the hope that he will establish himself once and for all.
Although well into the twilight of his career, his performance on the second day at least went some way towards achieving that objective.