PERTH: Under pressure, undervalued and ultimately underestimated, recalled all-rounder Mitchell Marsh scored his maiden Test century at the WACA on Saturday to complete a rare family set of Ashes tons.
Clubbing 29 fours in an unbeaten knock of 181, the 26-year-old combined with his captain Steve Smith (229 not out) in a 301-run partnership to give Australia a 146-run lead over England at stumps on day three of the third Test.
The home-town hundred was another entry for the Marsh family’s burgeoning scrapbook.
His older brother Shaun savoured his first Ashes ton during the second Test at the Adelaide Oval, an unbeaten 126 that made him man-of-the-match.
Their father Geoff Marsh beamed with pride in the WACA crowd, having scored 138 at Trent Bridge in Nottingham as an opener in Allan Border’s victorious 1989 team.
“I’ll let dad know that I passed him,” the younger Marsh told reporters, having surpassed his previous high score of 87.
Though powerfully built and boasting a thunderous drive, Marsh brought little else into the match barring Sheffield Shield runs and the faith of Australia’s selectors.
That faith had been dented over the course of 21 Tests that yielded just two half-centuries, a paltry average of 21.74 with the bat and a modest 37.48 with the ball.
Under the microscope but desperate to perform in front of home fans, the WACA Test began poorly for the 6ft-4in all-rounder as he dropped a straightforward catch in the slips to reprieve England opener Mark Stoneman on day one.
He then went wicketless during England’s innings and conceded nearly five runs an over as Australia’s fourth seamer.
Yet there were few signs of nerves as he combined with Smith in a stand that pushed England to the brink.
After raising his ton, he pumped his fist like a piston and wrapped up Smith in a bear-hug as home fans roared.
It was his privilege to see Smith in ‘the zone’ at close proximity but tough, he observed, being on the wrong side of it.
“It’s not very nice, you come up with all these plans and nothing works.”
Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2017