Embattled batsman Shaun Marsh could be the key to an Australian resurgence in the ODI series against South Africa.
Marsh was ruled out of the first match at the last minute after it was revealed he would require minor surgery to remove an abscess in his “buttock region”.
At first glance, the 35-year-old may not have seemed like a huge loss given his Test troubles this year. He averages 13.41 in Test cricket since the end of the Ashes, and made 14 runs in four innings against Pakistan in the UAE.
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But Marsh was Australia’s best batsman in its last ODI assignment, and has shown promising signs that his struggles are once again behind him. Combined with his more than 100 games of international experience, and Marsh could prove invaluable for a top six craving senior figures.
The batsman comfortably top-scored for Australia in its last ODI series; a 5-0 whitewash to England in June. He made 288 runs at 57.60 and scored two centuries. Australia’s next best batsman that series was Travis Head, who made 194 at 38.80.
Marsh also has one of the best records this century in ODIs in Australia against South Africa. He has made 218 one-day runs against the Proteas in Australia at an average of 43.60. Only four players – Mike Hussey, Damien Martyn, Steve Waugh and Steve Smith – have averaged higher (minimum three matches).
Marsh wasn’t picked in the home ODIs against England last summer, but played his career-defining series in the Ashes.
He scored 445 runs at 74.16 including two centuries and two fifties. His second-highest score for the series, 126 not out, came at Adelaide Oval where the second ODI against South Africa will be played.
And despite his dismal performance in the UAE, Marsh has since shown that he is ready to take off in Australia where he left last summer.
Marsh returned from the UAE tour to play for Western Australia against Tasmania at the WACA in the Sheffield Shield.
He made 80 (140) in his first innings, and backed it up with a 98 (92) in his second.
Australia lost its first ODI to South Africa by six wickets after setting a measly total of just 152.
It’s a problem Marsh’s availability should go a long way towards solving.