Marsh rewards selectors' faith
Shaun Marsh marks his return to Test cricket with a brilliant century to get Australia to 4-297 at stumps on day one of the first Test against South Africa.PT1M24S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-32iwt 620 349 February 13, 2014
Steve Smith has hailed the temperament of Shaun Marsh for his stoic unbeaten century that, in conjunction with his own 91 not out, rescued Australia from a poor start to its Test series away to South Africa.
Marsh (122 not out) and Smith will resume on Thursday at Centurion Park needing only one more run to reach a double-century partnership. Their ability to bat for the last 56 overs of day one took Australia from a precarious 4-98, after it was sent in by the Proteas, to 4-297 at stumps.
Shaun Marsh waited for his opportunities to score. Photo: Gallo Images
Left-hander Marsh, who only arrived in South Africa three days before he was chosen ahead of Phillip Hughes for Australia's final batting berth, faced 232 balls after arriving at the crease in the ninth over of the day. The selection of he and debutant Alex Doolan prompted captain Michael Clarke to drop himself and Smith one rung down the order with Doolan and Marsh filling respectively the three and four slots.
Smith lauded the performance of Marsh in his first Test appearance since January 2011, declaring he was "amazing all day".
"He let the ball come into his areas. He left really well, and when the ball was in his areas he really capitalised on that," said Smith, who also said he was impressed how well Marsh had coped with his late arrival.
Steve Smith continued his purple patch. Photo: Gallo Images
"It took me a good week to get over it (jetlag), and he's only been here for three days," Smith said.
"The way he played today was sensational. He waited beautifully, and when they got into his areas he really capitalised on it and showed great maturity.
"He's been a quality player for a long time. He hasn't played Test cricket for a while and he's gone and worked on his game. The way he's come back against arguably the best bowling attack in the world and the way he played today was just terrific. I'm really happy for him."
Australia v South Africa, Ist Test, day one
Timberrrr: Dale Steyn gets through David Warner's defences. Photo: Reuters
When West Australian Marsh nudged a single off part-time spinner J.P. Duminy to reach his milestone the first cheers within the venue - conspicuously and vociferously - came from the Australian team balcony. Hughes, the prolific run-scorer who Marsh was chosen ahead of, was among the enthusiastic celebrators.
Smith said he was surprised South Africa had decided to send Australia in to bat after winning the toss.
"We thought it was going to be quite tough this morning, but that if we got through that initial stage it looked like it was going to be quite a nice wicket. It actually was. It played really well throughout the day. It had good pace and bounce," he said.
Steve Smith celebrates Shaun Marsh's century. Photo: Gallo Images
"There's actually a few cracks forming as well. Hopefully with the heat overhead we can get a big first-innings total and let the cracks come into play."
South Africa all-rounder Ryan McLaren lamented allowing the visitors to recover after the loss of captain Michael Clarke early in the second session. He said the pitch conditions and a softening ball both favoured Australia in the second half of the day, but stressed the primary factor in Australia's recovery was the performances of Marsh and Smith.
"I thought Shaun Marsh and Steve Smith played really, really well. It was pretty much a chanceless partnership," McLaren said.
"I think we started off well - 4-98, any team would take that from a bowling perspective. We had opportunities but they batted really well. We've got to give credit to the way Marsh and Smith batted.
"Maybe we could've increased the intensity going into the second session, but tomorrow's another day. We're going to have to come back fighting. I think this team has showed its character in the past, to bounce back the following day. I've got no doubt the boys will respond positively tomorrow morning."
McLaren said he was impressed Marsh had battled through a tough start to his innings, when Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel made batting tough for the Australians.
"I thought we bowled well in the beginning. He was under pressure in the beginning and he took some blows and so on, but he showed once again that he could adapt well to the conditions. The longer he stayed there the easier it became," he said.
While Proteas seamer Dale Steyn claimed the scalps of Warner and Clarke, both to aggressive shots, his pace was down. As well as a lack of training since the new year, due to a rib injury, Steyn was also hindered by a bout of gastro.
"Yes, that is the case. I think he had a bit of diarrhoea overnight," McLaren confirmed. "But for a guy who's bowled 21 overs he looks like he's doing alright. I thought it was a serious effort from Dale today."
Smith will start day two only needing another nine runs to score his third century in his past six Test innings. He said he hoped he would not obsess about that possibility.
"I am pretty tired - I think I will sleep alright. It was quite hot out there," he said.
"Hopefully I won't think too much about it over night and will come back fresh in the morning and put on a few runs."