By Aaron Callaghan and Tom Atkinson
What a turn of events. Seemingly exiled from the Australia test team and according to some pundits, not appearing on anyone’s radar for reselection. However as we’ve come to know, love and loathe, a Marsh is never too far away from a surprise stairway to the baggy green promised land. As Peter Handscomb was toiling his way through Indian dust storms and Bangladeshi monsoon basins, (managing a relatively meagre 72* in India and an 80 on a slop pit in Chittagong) Mitch Marsh was quietly working away in the background. Cradling an injured shoulder, a bruised ego, and a seemingly large bounty on his baggy green from just about every member of Australia's cricketing faithful. As Handscomb’s mild run of 2017 form spiralled into downright meltdown through the first two Ashes tests, the gate that seemed welded shut months before had begun to swing open out of nowhere for Mitchell. It all coincided with his roaring captains knock of 141 against Queensland on the batsmens oasis W.A.C.A wicket, which catapulted him back into contention from another solar system. Shaun’s brother would play in Perth and the rest is now history. The Ashes are back in Australia’s trophy cabinet and there are two Marsh’s in the Australian team and two Marsh’s on the selection committee. Though I must stop to reflect on the misfortune of Handscomb. I'm a huge fan of the bloke and although he lacked that definitive knock to concrete his selection, he was far from disastrous. The revolving door selection madness has long been a thorn in my side. But with Marsh's heroic ton, moronic, half baked pundits like ourselves ended up with a bakery full of humble pie on our plates and a hatchery full of eggs on our frowning faces.
All is right with the world.
Call off the search for an Australian factory model 2005 Andrew Flintoff. We’ve got our man. With all the kinks, design faults and manufacturing issues ironed with extra starch.
It would be remiss to not look back at the new Australian savour, Andrew Marsh. Or is it Mitchell Flintoff? Sure, like every player returning from injury or poor form he is sporting a remodeled technique and I tend to agree with the experts, he looks less rigidly robotic and more elegant and fluid. A little Less Shane Watson and a little more Damien Martyn. In 22 tests (He’s played 22 tests?), Mitchell Flintoff is averaging a modest 26.71 with the bat and 29 wickets at 39, including that 181. The Perth test match was a slog for all bowlers not names Starc and Hazlewood, however Flintarsh looked as threatening as a labradoodle eating an ice cream cake with the Kookaburra. He even conjured PTSD inducing images seared onto my brain, of Andrew McDonald’s failed stint as the modern Keith Miller. Marsh's Plodding medium pacers would loop on to the bat nicely and fly off it with meteoric speed, evident in Marsh’s 4.67 economy rate in the match from a grand total of 12 overs.
That begs the question... Is Mitch marsh for real this time?
No. No he’s not. Well maybe, he could be. Judgement should be reserved until at least the tour of South Africa. England won’t offer much resistance through the remaining test matches and into the hit and giggle short forms of the game. The test of Marsh’s resilience and new found batting approach will come in Febraury on South Africa’s pacy, seaming wickets and their fast bowling cohort steaming in. The likes of Morkel, Philander and the terrifyingly talented Kagiso Rabada will prove a moon landing mission.
I remember the moment when the penny dropped for Andrew Symonds, Australia's last gun all rounder during the Boxing Day test match. Roy posted 156 against an English bowling attack consisting of Harmison, Hoggard, Flintoff and Pannesar, no mean feat. It was this watershed moment when it all clicked for Andrew Symonds at test level (honourable mention to his 2003 world cup century that bailed the Australians out against Parkistan).
Did Mitch Marsh just have his Andrew Symonds moment? Or was it Flintoff? I can’t remember. Either way, the litmus test and a familiar face lies in wait.