I’m under a little bit of pressure – Mitchell Marsh
Peter Nevill is open to a promotion in Australia’s batting order ahead of Mitchell Marsh, as the captain Steven Smith and the coach Darren Lehmann ponder how to get the best out of a middle-order duo who are yet to place their stamp on a Test match with the bat.
As highlighted by the selection chairman Rod Marsh’s reference to Jackson Bird’s batting as a factor in his non-selection, Australia need to find a way to get more out of their lower-order batting on the days when the top five do not make the desired tallies of runs.
It was a weakness exploited ruthlessly by Sri Lanka’s spinners during their recent clean sweep of a Test series, and a South African attack led by Dale Steyn will be eager to do likewise down under, this time with pace. Neither Marsh (averaging 24 after 18 Tests) nor Nevill (20.88 after 15 Tests) have been able to impose themselves, too often opening the door to the Australian tail.
While conventional wisdom has it that allrounders tend to bat at No. 6 and wicketkeepers at No. 7, Nevill and Marsh appear stylistically suited in opposite roles. Nevill’s busy but not overly histrionic batting has been most successful at No. 6 for New South Wales, where he averages 42.73 with six centuries and a highest score of 235 not out.
Meanwhile, Marsh is much more of a free-spirited hitter, capable of changing the momentum of a game after the fashion of Nevill’s predecessor Brad Haddin or, in earlier years, Andrew Symonds. Nevill said he would happily move up the order, should Smith decide this was a better balance for the Test team.
Peter Nevill averages 20.88 after 18 Tests and has two fifties © Getty Images
“I’d happily do whatever the skipper asked me to do,” Nevill told ESPNcricinfo. “Wherever’s best for the team I’m happy to bat wherever. Your role at No. 7 is either the team’s going really well and you need to go out there and look to push the game along with an eye on a declaration.
“You’re either that or five for not too many and you need to go out there and guts it out and put a partnerships together with whoever you’ve got at the other end, and batting with the tail as well. So it’s usually one of those two scenarios I’ve found being in the Australian team.”
For his part, Marsh is aware his place is under plenty of scrutiny going into this week. He is trying to focus on positive thoughts and an aggressive batting plan, the better to exploit his obvious power with the willow. “There’s no doubt I’m probably under a little bit of pressure, but I think if I go into the week thinking like that I’m probably not going to enjoy it,” he said.
“It’s a home Test match, I’m going to prepare as best as I ever have, and go out there and really enjoy myself and not focus on myself to much. I really just want to play for this team and play to win. Every time you bat you just try to bat as long as you can. For me it’s more about trying to score runs and being positive, and when I’m doing that my feet move better and I get into better positions even to leave the ball, so that’s my focus.”
While indicating an eagerness to hang onto his No. 6 berth, Marsh did agree his seam and swing had evolved to a point that a lower order commission would be plausible in the context of a greater bowling load in the field.
“I certainly want to remain an allrounder, I bat at six. But if that did come up I’d be happy to do it,” he said. “I feel like my bowling’s improved a lot over the last 18 months, and it’s gotten to a point now where I’ve had a few occasions where blokes have gone down and I’ve had to step up to the third seamer role. I’ve done it before, but I really enjoy batting at No. 6 and want to stay there as long as I can.”
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.