In the absence of Joe Burns, Shaun Marsh was stationed at short leg for the spinners © Cricket Australia/Getty Images
Shaun Marsh’s dive to catch a bat and pad chance from Temba Bavuma was a significant moment for Australia for a few reasons, quite apart from being a terrific piece of fielding.
Short leg to a spinner is arguably the hardest position in the game in terms of courage and skill, leaving the fielder open to all kinds of punishment and danger when slow bowlers pitch short or the batsman opens his shoulders to slog sweep. As Chris Rogers has recounted in his new book Bucking the Trend.
“I’ve always hated the position. I fielded there a lot as a younger player, particularly for Beau Casson. He mixed great deliveries with loose ones, meaning the short leg could be peppered. During one match at Adelaide Oval for Western Australia, I was struck on the full on my ankle and the ball then ricocheted all the way to midwicket, who proceeded to take the catch. All the players ran to the fielder except for Beau, who ran straight to me, where I lay writhing in pain on the ground.
“After numerous blows, I started to dislike playing and would hardly speak when positioned close in. It’s a terrible spot to field and those who criticise these fielders would be better served to keep their mouth shut until they’ve experienced what it is like in there. The best ones are those who don’t fear it and I wasn’t one of them – Rob Quiney is possibly the bravest I’ve seen.”
Australia had lost their first choice for short leg with the dropping of Joe Burns, meaning Marsh went in there for the spinners while Usman Khawaja went “under the lid” for the pacers. The intervention to catch Bavuma ended a pesky partnership South Africa.
At the same time it provided a nice bit of nostalgia for Shaun’s father Geoff Marsh, watching from the stands. A decade or three ago he fielded there for Australia in Tests, once claiming a particularly fine catch from the bat and pad of one Ian Botham at the SCG. This take, though, was better.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
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