Thursday 14 December 2017 / 01:57 AM

FROM THE BOX: MARSH OR MAXWELL?

Reporting live from the Gabba, ANGE LOWTHER dissects the biggest talking point from the press box over the weekend of the first Ashes Test.

Like most Australian cricket fans and pundits, I too doubted the selectors’ choices for the opening two Tests of the Ashes series against England.

And like all Test announcements seem to go when a Marsh brother is chosen, public backlash roared at the selectors when veteran Shaun’s name was read out.

But on Day 2 of the Ashes Series, Shaun Marsh exceeded all his doubters’ expectations when he came in at a difficult time for the Aussies, who were precariously placed at 4/76.

Marsh faced 141 balls for his crucial 51-run contribution, including eight fours, with a strike-rate of 36.17.

Marsh displayed not just patience and balance out on the field, but that trademark cover drive that signifies beautiful timing and movement – something to be desired in a Test cricketer.

Although Marsh managed to push on during a critical time for Australia, it wasn’t enough for his detractors, who have already declared that Glenn Maxwell should replace him at No.6.

As the national team did battle with England, Maxwell starred for Victoria by smashing a career-best 278 off just 316 balls against New South Wales.

Maxwell has a colourful history representing Australia. He’s played all formats of the game at international level and has been somewhat pigeonholed as a limited-overs specialist, but arguments still surround him on what kind of cricketer he really is.

His ramp shots and reverse sweeps during the shorter forms of the game are indeed a sight, but he’s maturely taken to Test cricket just as well.

Maxwell scored 104 in Ranchi and 45 in Dharamasla against India back in March, and 38 under difficult circumstances against Bangladesh in Chittagong.

Although Maxwell hasn’t shown as much consistency in Test cricket as most would like – something Australia lacked in its middle-order batsmen for some time – his form is a lot stronger than it was during his inclusion to the Test squads in 2013 and ’14. Add his 278 runs from the current Sheffield Shield match and you’ve got yourself an ideal Test batsman.

In fact, I’m sure many would agree with me when I say that he’s probably one of the most exciting and interesting batsmen to watch in world cricket.

However, whether or not it’s fair to say he should be replacing Shaun Marsh after just one Test – and a successful one by the veteran at that – is another story.

At the start of this Ashes Test, I would have disagreed with my newfound stance on this selection, but it’s unfair to say that Maxwell should have been included in the Test squad when selectors look at the first two or three Sheffield Shield matches to pick their summer Test squads.

Shaun Marsh made scores of 11, 63, 91, 2, 52 and 17 in his last three matches for Western Australia, whereas Maxwell, as an all-rounder, made 20, 7, 60, 64, 45* and 4 and claimed no wickets.

While Maxwell was away in India for the T20 Internationals and ODIs in September and October, the 29-year-old only managed 75 runs in four games. Meanwhile, Marsh was in Australia playing in the JLT Cup 50-over competition, where he displayed undeniably magnificent form with scores such as 132*, 88, 62 and 69 – perhaps his most consistent form in years.

At the time of selection, the only figures that would have mattered were the ones that showed the highest scores of the first-class Sheffield Shield matches, and unfortunately for Maxwell, it was too little too late.

I doubted Marsh’s form ahead of the first Test and can’t say I was ever a big fan of his to begin with, but to say now that Maxwell should have been included before Marsh is a bit contradictory given statistics show that Marsh earned his inclusion fair and square.

However, should a batsman become injured, Maxwell would no doubt be the next in line – and Marsh’s first-innings half-century at the Gabba won’t count for much if he can’t keep delivering in the vital No.6 spot.

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About the author

Ange Lowther

Based in Brisbane, Ange has come on board with Commentary Box Sports as a cricket reporter and features writer.

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