What do you call a man who injures himself before a tour, gets himself fit before the final of a tournament that supposedly has no bearing on the selection of the team to the tour, finds that a middle order batsman, prone to injuries as much as him, is… injured, and called up to make a dash to Johannesburg when he is celebrating the tournament win with his friends? Lucky, or if you want to be more specific- Shaun Marsh.
You never feel assured with the man, not when he is the only guy apart from Shane Watson to have scored a century from number three for Australia in the last three years . Not when you are the only guy apart from Michael Clarke who looked confident in that disaster of a Cape Town Test . Not when you scored 17 runs in 6 innings against India at home. So it was natural that there would be more than a few resenting voices against his selection to the South African tour.
The selectors seem to have a lot of faith in him. He is yet to repay that faith with a consistent run. It can be argued that he hasn’t been given a fair run in the baggy green cap. His run with injuries hasn’t helped him either. Today, when he came to the crease, the score read 24/2 and a lot hinged on the way he would bat. He saw Amla drop a tough chance off him and then saw Doolan mesmerised by three away swingers out of four by McLaren. All the three outswingers beat the outside edge of Doolan’s bat. In between all that, he served notice of the talent that first impressed Steve Waugh and a generation of selectors. The drive he played off Morkel, by literally walking to the pitch of the delivery, will remain in the minds of the people lucky enough to have witnessed it. As the time spent at the crease grew, he grew confident to play the strokes he wanted to. The off drive off the bowling of Morkel, the skip down the pitch and lofted shot off Peterson, the straight drive off Steyn and the cut off Duminy- all these shots are the hallmarks of a good player.
Every single time we think that he has turned a corner, he either gets bogged down by an injury or has an inconsistent run. Today, he put his down and concentrated on getting himself in. Once he got the initial nerves calmed, he started playing the strokes. The period between lunch and tea was tough on him as it looked that he was hobbling. Though he seemed to be pain, he rotated the strike well.
He grew nervous as he got closer to the century. He got an outside edge on 96 that did not carry to the fielders behind and inside edge that didn’t hit the stumps. At the present stage in his career, it will be said that he has taken a turn for the better only if performs well in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town.
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