West Indies v Australia T20Is - Men's
Rise of Marsh a much-needed salve for Aussies' T20 wounds
The Perth allrounder's individual dominance couldn't prevent a chastening series defeat but it gives an under-strength Aussie outfit something to cling on to ahead of the World Cup
17 July 2021, 04:05 PM AEST
The form of Mitchell Marsh has emerged as the brightest of few shining lights after Australia slipped to a crushing 4-1 series defeat against the West Indies in St Lucia.
The allrounder asserted his dominance with bat and ball to turn in what was statistically the greatest individual performance in a T20 series for Australia in nine years.
Not since Shane Watson at the 2012 T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka has one player topped Australia's run-scoring and wicket-taking charts.
In that tournament, where Australia crashed out at the semi-final stage against eventual champions West Indies, Watson opened the batting alongside David Warner and led all scorers with 249 runs at a strike-rate of an even 150 and average of 49.80.
The 11 wickets he took, opening the bowling in three of the team's six matches, was second-most in the tournament behind Sri Lankan Ajantha Mendis' 15.
Over the past seven days, Marsh has delivered an individual tour de force that saw him finish as the series' leading run-scorer with 219 at a strike-rate of 152.08 and average of 43.80, having struck ten sixes and 20 fours on his way to passing fifty three times in the five-game series.
He was also the Aussies’ top wicket taker with eight scalps, behind only Hayden Walsh's 12 as the most successful of the series, while conceding just 6.76 runs per over, the best economy rate of anyone to bowl five overs or more.
Fellow Western Australian Andrew Tye, who has seen plenty of the allrounder at state, Big Bash and international level, said Marsh had elevated to new heights on this tour.
"He's grown into his new role at No.3, taken it on board, and flourished," Tye said on Saturday in the wake of Australia's defeat in the fifth T20.
"I've never seen him execute so well with ball.
"He's put in a lot of hard work behind the scenes on his bowling, learning new tricks and really trying to become that proper allrounder instead of having one area let him down.
"And it's the best form I've ever seen him in with bat.
"I've seen it first-hand plenty of times with the Scorchers the power he's got, and to see him consistently putting performances on the board for Australia is a sight for sore eyes.
"It's everything we've known he's been able to do for years, and now we just hope he can continue to do it."
Marsh found himself batting at No.3 for the first time in his T20 international career with the absence of seven first-choice players from this tour due to a combination of physical and mental fitness issues.
With David Warner, Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell all in Australia's first-choice XI for the T20 World Cup, Marsh may still find himself squeezed out of the top of the order.
But with Smith recently telling cricket.com.au that he would prioritise the Ashes over the T20 World Cup if the elbow complaint that kept him out of this tour doesn't allow him to regain full fitness quickly, a difficult decision may yet be taken out of the Aussie selectors' hands.
In the past 18 months before this series, Smith (six times), Josh Philippe (four), Matthew Wade (twice), Alex Carey, Marcus Stoinis and Maxwell (all once) had all batted at No.3 for Australia.
Of that group, Marsh is the only one to have scored a half century, having put up three this series, while hitting as many sixes as Smith and Philippe combined.
"The way Mitch Marsh went about it with ball and with bat was a huge positive leading towards the World Cup," T20 vice-captain Matthew Wade told cricket.com.au.
"For him to get some confidence in that (No.3) role that he could potentially do going forward is a good thing."
Marsh himself played down the prospect of a more permanent move to first drop earlier in the series, saying: "I certainly don't want a headline saying that I want the No.3 spot but any time you get an opportunity to bat up top for Australia, it's great.
"I've done it a little bit in the past for the Scorchers, so I do enjoy it."
After his stunning all-round effort in the fourth match that helped Australia to its only win so far on tour, Marsh added: "I'm certainly loving the opportunity to bat up the top of the order and as we've seen, batting against the new ball is the time to really get after it and the time to get ahead of the game.
"I'm really enjoying the role but it is purely based – and we speak about it as a team, with the World Cup coming up – on playing a role.
"I'm 29 now, I've had a lot of experiences both good and bad in international cricket.
"I came to this tour really well prepared and had a great break. I feel in great physical shape and mentally feeling really good."
Adam Zampa noted a changed outlook from the man nicknamed 'Bison', after the leg-spinner was asked to provide feedback on how Marsh could improve his play against the turning ball.
"He's had to deal with a lot of pressure which is probably unwarranted, I think," Zampa said on Friday.
"The Australian fans, media might put too much pressure on allrounders.
"I don't know if he's taken it to heart, but the way he trains – he smacks the ball – and I think he gets into habits of feeling that pressure early in his innings.
"But this series he's just gone for it."
Qantas Tour of the West Indies 2021
Australia squad: Aaron Finch (c), Ashton Agar, Wes Agar, Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey, Dan Christian, Josh Hazlewood, Moises Henriques, Mitchell Marsh, Ben McDermott, Riley Meredith, Josh Philippe, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, Matthew Wade, Adam Zampa. Travelling reserves: Nathan Ellils, Tanveer Sangha.
West Indies T20 squad: Kieron Pollard (c), Nicholas Pooran (vc), Fabian Allen, Dwayne Bravo, Sheldon Cottrell, Fidel Edwards, Andre Fletcher, Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Jason Holder, Akeal Hosein, Evin Lewis, Obed McCoy, Andre Russell, Lendl Simmons, Kevin Sinclair, Oshane Thomas, Hayden Walsh Jr
T20 series: West Indies won 4-1 (all matches at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground, St Lucia)
First T20: West Indies won by 18 runs
Second T20: West Indies won by 56 runs
Third T20: West Indies won by six wickets
Fourth T20: Australia won by four runs
Fifth T20: West Indies won by 16 runs
ODI series (all matches at Kensington Oval, Barbados)
First ODI (D/N): July 21, 4.30am AEST (July 20, 2.30pm local)
Second ODI (D/N): July 23, 4.30am AEST (July 22, 2.30pm local)
Third ODI (D/N): July 25, 4.30am AEST (July 24, 2.30pm local)
* Details of five-match T20 tour of Bangladesh are yet to be announced by the Bangladesh Cricket Board. Tours are subject to agreement on bio-security arrangements and relevant government approvals.