In the first innings of the First Test, Shaun Marsh created unwanted history when he became the first Australian batsman to score six successive single figure scores since 1888. At stumps on Day Four an opportunity for a much more positive place in history beckons, with him now the man Australia will rely upon most in their quest for the largest ever successful run chase at the Adelaide Oval. Already four down with 219 runs still needed on a deteriorating fifth day pitch, it is also an opportunity for the much maligned batsman to repay the unwavering faith shown in him by Australia’s selectors and, in doing so, perhaps even begin winning over his sceptics in the grandstand.
One person who would count himself squarely in the believer camp would be Australian Coach Justin Langer. Despite Marsh returning home from the UAE with an average of 13 from his previous 13 innings, Langer did not just disagree with calls for his position to be in jeopardy but mocked those doing the questioning. “It does confuse me,” Langer told TAB Radio in November. “He had a poor series against Pakistan and he’d be the first to admit that but around that he does so many good things. He’s such a good player when he lets go and plays with that freedom he is a world-class player.”L
At The Pinch Hitters we have unashamedly voiced our scepticism of his ability to reliably produce the innings now required of him. His record over a lengthy first class career supports this position, given that he has proven twice as likely to score less than ten than he his to pass fifty. This said we, like most other Australians, are now hoping that he and Travis Head can lead the team to a famous victory. More than this though he need look no further than his coach and biggest fan, Langer, for not just cheerleading but also first hand evidence of what an underperforming batsman and a rookie can do even when defeat looks certain.
A little over 19 years ago, Langer found himself in a similar position to the one Marsh now finds himself in. At stumps on day four of Australia’s Test with Pakistan in Hobart, the home team was 5/188 in chase of 369, what would be the then third highest successful fourth innings in Test history. Langer, who after 43 Test Innings had the disappointing average of 28, was not out over night with Adam Gilchrist who was playing just his second Test Match.
Facing a Pakistan attack that included the likes of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Shoaib Aktar an Saqlain Mushtaq, there weren’t many who gave the two Western Australians much hope of guiding Australia home. Yet, on a glorious day in Australian cricket history, that is exactly what happened. While it might have taken a little bit of luck with a ‘clicky bat handle’, Langer and Gilchrist combined for a 238 run partnership. Unfortunately for Langer he fell with five runs left to get but Gilchrist hit the winning runs just two balls later.
Can Marsh and Head right their own chapter in Australian cricket history on day five? Only time will tell but that is the opportunity that presents itself for Marsh and with it, his best ever chance to repay the unwavering faith shown in him by Langer and those who proceeded him. As Australian cricket fans, we are without question hoping he proves himself the hero we all need in this moment.