Men's Ashes 2021-22
Ashes nightmare could help Harris reignite Test dream
A revised batting technique borne from the ashes of a failed 2019 UK campaign has the Vics opener confident his game is vastly improved ahead of the Test summer
2 November 2021, 12:00 PM AEST
Marcus Harris's Ashes story might well come full circle this summer after the remodelling of his technique after a disastrous 2019 series has again put him in the frame for Test selection.
Harris, who is in fact Australia's incumbent Test opener alongside David Warner, made his first Marsh Sheffield Shield appearance of the season count last week when he soaked up 361 deliveries to post a gritty 137 for Victoria against NSW in Sydney.
The left-hander has been working closely with Vics coach and former Test opener Chris Rogers as he looks to eradicate the issues that plagued him during that 2019 Ashes, when he averaged 9.66 in his three Tests.
A big part of that work has been a detailed revamp of his technique, which he explained to RSN was an evolving process that began prior to last summer's Shield season, but had its roots in the previous year's Ashes in the UK.
"Everything seems to be going in the right direction," Harris said. "Probably the start of last season I changed my technique quite significantly, stood a bit more side on and aligned myself a bit more than what I used to.
"As that's evolved I've tweaked that here and there. I felt like when I was in England (during this year's County Championship) I was getting a bit more closed off with the ball swinging a lot, so I just made a few minor tweaks. But I feel like I've helped my game a lot.
"It probably stemmed from the Ashes in 2019 in England, when I really battled with Stuart Broad and Jofra Archer around the wicket, so it was trying to combat that."
Harris averaged 63.18 in last summer's Shield season then backed that up with Leicestershire in County Championship Division with 655 runs at 54.58, including three hundreds.
Now a veteran of 115 first-class matches, that experience clearly benefited him in the UK, where he said he had to "look after (himself) a little bit" with regards to analysis of his game as the season unfolded.
Additionally, Harris also found value in batting for longer periods on turning pitches, as well as taking on a role of seniority with his county.
"It was good to play on some wickets that spun a lot, because I had battled against spin a little bit," said the 29-year-old, who engaged in an intriguing tussle with Nathan Lyon in last week's Shield match, at one point hitting the off-spinner for six straight down the ground.
"And I think just playing for Leicester, who are a smaller county, and being a senior guy in the team, I really enjoyed trying to lead from the front and set a bit of an example for them."
With Australia's Test squad set to be named later this month, Harris appears to be vying for a top-six berth with the likes of Usman Khawaja, Travis Head and his Vics teammate Will Pucovski.
"I had a really good conversation with George Bailey probably a week ago," he added. "I sort of know where I stand, and what needs to happen, and what I need to do.
"I think (selection is) probably going to be more (based) on a body work rather than a couple of Shield games at the start of the season."
The WA-born product spent some time batting at three for Leicestershire this year and could yet find himself filling a middle-order role in the Test side, according to Ricky Ponting, who spoke to cricket.com.au about competition for such spots earlier this year.
"I think Travis will play some more (Test cricket)," Ponting said in May. "I think that's probably his slot in the middle order now, so let's hope he can make the most of it.
"(But) Marcus Harris is someone who can bat there as well – I don't think he needs to open. If he shows that he's good enough and scores enough runs in domestic cricket as an opener, then I think he can bat in the middle order quite easily.
"They've just got to work on who their best player is and if it's Harris, if it's Head, if it's (Moises) Henriques – work out who it is and give them a chance there.
"That probably just going to come down to weight of runs. Out of those three guys, I think one of them will be batting in the middle."
Vodafone Men's Ashes v England
First Test: December 8-12, The Gabba
Second Test: December 16-20, Adelaide Oval
Third Test: December 26-30, MCG
Fourth Test: January 5-9, SCG
Fifth Test: January 14-18, Perth Stadium