Marsh makes his case as England are forced to toil

Cricket


England 1 for 29 (Cook 11*, Vince 0*) trail Australia 8 for 442 dec (Marsh 126*, Paine 57, Khawaja 53, Overton 3-105) by 413 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Australia’s selectors picking Shaun Marsh, and Joe Root sending Australia in to bat. If these were two of the more controversial decisions made in relation to this Ashes series, only one now appears an inspired call. On the second day at Adelaide Oval, Marsh pulled and drove his way to the fifth hundred of his Test career, while Root faced the embarrassment of seeing Australia declare in their sixth session of batting after he sent them in.

Their total was 8 for 442, and they had batted for 149 overs. Root had spoken at the toss about his bowlers getting two chances with the new ball on day one, a curious mindset for a captain choosing to field. By the time Steven Smith declared, a third new ball was on the horizon. Australia’s score was only the 97th-highest total by any team having been sent in to bat in Test history, but for Root that comfort was as cold as the rainy Adelaide evening.

England progressed to 1 for 29 in their reply, having lost Mark Stoneman as well as a review to a Mitchell Starc yorker that would have crashed into leg stump. Alastair Cook was on 11 and James Vince was yet to score when the wet weather arrived and ended play for the evening. England remained 413 runs in arrears, and the Ashes were slipping ever further out of their grasp.

If it was a black day for England, it was a red-letter one for Australia’s selectors. Not only did Marsh make an unbeaten 126 but the wicketkeeper Tim Paine, an even more surprising selection, had frustrated England with a breezy 57 that came at a key juncture. Paine had walked to the crease in the first over of the day, after Stuart Broad trapped Peter Handscomb lbw for 29; Australia were 5 for 209, and England could dream of a quick kill.

But Paine counter-attacked against the still-new pink ball, striking early boundaries off James Anderson and putting the pressure back on to England. He survived a worrying blow to his right hand – his struggle to recover from a fractured right index finger contributed to his long absence from international cricket – and his aggressive mood meant Marsh at the other end could bide his time, adding only 29 runs to his score in a two-and-a-half-hour opening session.

Both Paine and Marsh were given out lbw to Anderson by umpire Chris Gaffaney in quick succession, but on both occasions the batsmen reviewed and were reprieved by the ball-tracker showing the ball would have sailed over the top of the stumps. Paine batted on and brought up his fifty from his 91st delivery, before pulling a catch straight to Moeen Ali in the deep off Craig Overton.

It meant Paine had missed out on a chance to build just the second century of his first-class career – the first one having come 11 years ago – but he had done more than enough for the Australians, who were well on their way to a position of comfort. Starc pulled a catch off Broad for 6 but Marsh soon found another quality ally as Pat Cummins joined him for what became the biggest partnership of Australia’s innings, a 99-run combination for the eighth wicket.

Cummins failed to get off the mark until his 37th delivery, when he sliced a cut for four off Overton, but from then on he scored his 44 at nearly a run a ball. Marsh, though, was the key man for Australia. His calm approach spoke of an experienced head, which was one of the criteria Australia’s selectors had cited when naming him in the side. He scored productively from the pull, also driving handsomely through the off side in typical Marsh fashion.

Marsh reached triple figures from his 213th delivery with a perfectly placed pull for four off Woakes, and it was his first Test hundred since the tour of Sri Lanka in August last year. It also took him past his father Geoff’s tally of Test centuries from exactly half the amount of matches. Marsh had lifted his tempo after tea, and again after dinner raised it still further as the declaration approached.

England removed Cummins but not Marsh, and a life that he was given rather summed up England’s day. From the penultimate delivery before dinner, Marsh fended a Woakes bouncer into the air in the off side, where Cook at a floating second slip and Vince at gully converged, dived, and together fluffed the chance in comical fashion. It was a life for Marsh, but by then he had 102, and had already done the damage.

By the close of play, Cook and Vince were together once more, and England desperately needed them to work more cohesively if their team was to get out of this self-imposed hole.



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