Marsh masters England as Australia surges ahead in second Ashes Test
A magnificent century from Shaun Marsh has seen Australia surge into pole position after two days of the second Ashes Test at Adelaide Oval.
Beginning the day with honours something close to even, the wonderful batting of Marsh and his many support acts may have already taken the match away from England, and with it quite possibly the Ashes.
Marsh finished his innings unbeaten on 126, but was ably assisted by Tim Paine (57) and Pat Cummins (44) on a day that was ended prematurely by rain.
The early indications suggested it was to be England’s day, with Peter Handscomb finding himself hopelessly stuck on the crease and late to a Stuart Broad inswinger, plumb LBW in the first over of play.
There was swing in the air and some action in the wicket for the English quicks, but a counter-attack quelled the tourists’ momentum. Paine completely looked the part at the crease, while Marsh looked as solid as he has all summer.
Runs soon began to flow, but not before a period of umpiring and third-umpiring chaos. Both batsmen were given out LBW, only to have the tight decisions overturned on a review — HawkEye suggested the extra bounce in the pitch would have carried the deliveries over the stumps, despite what the naked eye suggested.
The pair would take those second chances and run with them, Paine bringing up his 50 in fine style, before his own good form became his undoing when he belted a pull shot down Moeen Ali’s throat at deep square leg.
But Marsh would kick on unperturbed, even after Mitch Starc fell in the first over of the second session — becoming the fourth of five Aussies to fall in the first over after a break in the innings.
He would bring up his 50 and, accompanied by the slow, watchful, but ultimately solid Pat Cummins, the pair would take the innings ever closer to the night session.
Cummins took 37 balls to get off the mark, but once settled looked as much a genuine all-rounder as he did in Brisbane. His strokeplay was eye-catching, but the day would belong to Marsh.
His innings was a perfect combination of watchful defence and thrilling shots, his cover-driving in particular a highlight. Nobody has ever been able to argue there are few sights in cricket better that Shaun Marsh at the top of his game.
A brutal pull shot to the square leg fence took him from 96 to 100, Marsh’s fifth Test century surely his best and most important.
By the dinner break, England’s wheels had fallen off and rolled many kilometres down the road. In the final over of the second session, Chris Woakes caught the shoulder of Marsh’s bat and presented what should have been a simple catch for the cordon.
But inexplicably, both Alastair Cook and James Vince dived for the same ball, and ended up holding hands as the ball fell to the turf between them.
A dinner declaration was mooted but ignored in favour of some more Marsh fireworks, with 15 coming off the final over of Australia’s innings. By the time Steve Smith called his batsmen in, England looked broken.
With all the momentum, Australia’s quicks came out breathing fire, most notably Mitchell Starc who passed the 150km/h mark with the last ball of his first over. It was pace England had not offered and could not deal with, and Mark Stoneman was the first victim, LBW for 18.
The stage looked to be set for a serious late Australian charge, but the rain came to England’s rescue, wiping out the remainder of the session and allowing the tourists the opportunity to start again under the day three sunlight.
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