Amid the heights attained by Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja and Steve Smith in Ranchi, this Test has also been quite a story for Kings XI Punjab mates Glenn Maxwell and Shaun Marsh. Maxwell’s maiden hundred went a long way in strengthening Australia’s position in the first innings but without Marsh’s fiercely resistant vigil, along with Peter Handscomb, the tourists might have been heading for Dharamsala trailing 1-2 in the series.
Marsh is one of those Australia players who have had more success away than at home. On his debut Test, against Sri Lanka at Pallekele in 2011, he had scored a 315-ball 141 before scoring 81 off 207 balls at the SSC Colombo. Australia drew both Tests to win the series 1-0. Even though both were first-innings knocks, Marsh had shown a glimpse of his ability to bat out time even then too.
Ranchi however was far more difficult. Although Marsh did end up almost gifting his wicket to Jadeja, he negated R Ashwin so well before that that he literally looked sub-par. Key to drawing this Test was to blunt at least one spinner and despite Ashwin spinning the ball away from him, Marsh accomplished the job with authority.
Of the 197 deliveries faced by Marsh in his innings, 91 were bowled by Ashwin. Marsh scored just 19 runs off those deliveries with 80 balls as dots. Most of those dots came from a solid forward defence as Marsh tried to meet the pitch of the balls as much as possible.
Marsh however couldn’t have pulled off Australia’s heist in Ranchi without Handscomb’s help, especially when the right-hander hit Ashwin for three boundaries in an over. Alarmed at his top spinner getting the stick, Kohli rested Ashwin after that. Australia were relieved too. Facing pace was better than spin on this pitch.
“They had magnificent plans. They backed their defence for long periods of time to see the game out for as long as they did. That’s one of the things we have been talking about - being resilient and sticking out the tough times. The way Petey (Handscomb) and Shaun did that was magnificent,” Australia captain Steve Smith said later.
Marsh’s India connect has been layered. One of the more popular Australians in the IPL circuit, Marsh didn’t have the best of time against India in the longer format. After his Sri Lanka debut and decent outing in Cape Town, Marsh returned scores of 0, 3, 0, 11, 3 and 0 in the home series against India when the rest of his team made merry.
Despite the strong debut and good domestic performances, Marsh has always been on the fringes all this time. This tour could however prove to a turning point in his career. He was preferred over Usman Khawaja in the tour match and utilised that chance to hit a century at the Brabourne Stadium. This innings at Ranchi however should allow Marsh to finally rest easy.