Mitch Marsh is thriving as a Test No.6 – Selectors, please keep him there!
If it was not already official, I believe it is now – Mitch Marsh the Test cricketer is here to stay.
While his name has been thrown into the ring of post-David Warner opening candidates, Marsh’s immediate goal is to hold his spot in front of his younger Western Australian peer Cameron Green.
Despite this, Marsh has entered the home summer with a rare sense of permanency courtesy of his Ashes performances.
On the evidence of a rollicking 90 in the first Test versus Pakistan, he appears to be finally delivering on the talent that had produced 32 matches across seven largely unproductive stints before his triumphant return in Leeds, exuding confidence only the truly settled possesses.
Much like the Headingley innings that jumpstarted his red ball career, this was three hours of freewheeling joy, this time in front of an adoring home crowd.
Like many before him, time out of the side seems to have relaxed his outlook and given him the freedom to keep it simple, to play to his strengths.
Always a carefree character, this is now a man with a self-belief to match an imposing exterior. This incarnation is a powerful hitter with a clear mind, unfazed by scoreboard pressure, just relishing time in the baggy green that he thought might have passed him by in the twilight of his career.
Crucially, as Australia prepares for the Test team’s next phase, this is the perfect combination for a number six batter.
Alongside a similar free spirit in Travis Head, Australia now possesses a rare one-two middle-order punch of game- and series-changing capability. Selectors would be unwise to tinker with it.
That is not to say the selectors are not without options, Green is perhaps also suited to the role. He possesses a sound technique that improves with every match he plays, though his ability to work through the gears remains a work in progress at this early stage of his career.
A dominant force at number four for Western Australia, where he bats at his own pace, opening provides him the licence to build an innings.
The counterpoint is how it would affect his workload in the field.
Combined with his close-in fielding position and significant bowling potential, such a physically and mentally demanding triple treat comes with two possible drawbacks; limiting his time with the ball, or risking further injury to a young man still growing into his body.
The remaining alternative is to shift Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith up one spot and insert Green at four. Both men seem reluctant to such a move.
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Wherever the next opener comes from, Marsh should be allowed to continue enjoying what he is doing, and where he is comfortable doing it.