Marcus Harris gains crucial backing in Ashes opener race: 'Much more mature'

Chris Rogers says he's seen first-hand the improvement from Marcus Harris that makes him a suitable Ashes opener for Australia.

Marcus Harris.
Marcus Harris has been backed as Ashes opener by coach of Victoria, Chris Rogers. (Photo by Jonathan DiMaggio/Getty Images)

Marcus Harris has been backed to claim the potentially vacant opening batter spot for the Ashes by Victorian coach Chris Rogers, with the former Test star saying Harris was more 'mature' in comparison to his past Test outings. Harris last played a Test in the summer of 2021/22, dropped to make way for Travis Head after Usman Khawaja's memorable twin centuries at the SCG.

Harris, who had made 76 in an earlier Test innings at the MCG that series, was considered hard done by to have lost his spot. He had come back in thanks to player of the series Head missing matches due to COVID-19.

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Khawaja has more than solidified his spot as opener since then, however the spotlight is on David Warner, with Harris among several credible candidates to take his spot. The Victorian batsman earned a vote of confidence earlier in April when he was given a Cricket Australia contract for 2023/24, beating out the likes of Peter Handscomb and Matthew Renshaw.

After a strong summer for Victoria and, crucially, a bolstered resume in English county cricket, Rogers believes Harris is well placed to be the next man up after Warner. The incumbent batsman likely needs a big innings in the World Test Championship final at The Oval against India in order to hold his place for the first Ashes Test.

"Certainly with Marcus, you've got a battle-hardened guy who's gone through those tough moments in Test cricket and come out the back end," Rogers told SEN. "So you'd like to think that when he gets back in, he's going to have a bit more success.

"From our point of view, the runs he got this year were a lot of times in really challenging conditions and in first innings as well when the bowlers really had the upper hand. That was the thing that stood out, that's not always easy to do.

"He really led from the front in a lot of games that we played and set us up, so I think he's much better placed, he's a much more mature man now as well when it comes to these opportunities so I'd love to see him get another opportunity.

"He knows there's going to be some unbelievable challenges if that comes, particularly from bowlers who will come around the wicket and try and swing the ball away from him. So he's got his work cut out but he's been working hard at that as well."

Marcus Harris more prepared for England conditions after Ashes 'shock'

Harris recently admitted that his first trip to England for the Ashes had been a 'shock to the system', having had limited exposure to English conditions in his career until then. Since then, Harris has made multiple trips to play county cricket.

Recent scores of 148 and 59 against Glamorgan while playing for Gloucestershire have done his case no harm whatsoever, but Harris knows nothing is guaranteed. He revealed he wasn't even expecting to get a Cricket Australia contract this year, but noted it still didn't assure him of anything.

"It was a nice thing to get but it doesn't guarantee anything going forward," Harris told RSN. "Three years ago when I came over here to play for Leicester my goal was aiming towards the Ashes this year but also just to get some cricket under my belt in the UK.

"Last time I came over to the Ashes in 2019 I'd never played over here at a professional level and it was probably a bit of a shock to the system.

"So if I'm fortunate enough to get picked in the series this year, at least in the squad, I'll have three seasons of county cricket under my belt to help myself be best prepared."

Marcus Harris slides to field a ball.
Marcus Harris was awarded a Cricket Australia contract in a vote of confidence from chief selector George Bailey. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Harris also revealed recently how he had finally ebgun to feel at home at Test level before he was abruptly sent back to prove his case once again. "I've been in and out a few times and that's why I was a bit disappointed last time when I got left out after the Sydney Test – no issues with the selection – but I was just starting to feel confident in myself," he said.

"And my mum, who knows nothing about cricket, she said: 'That's the first time I've even seen in your face you looked like you were confident, knew what you were doing and started to look that you felt like you belonged'.

"So that was disappointing that I couldn't quite nail it down in Sydney to be able to keep my spot in the team. But I feel like from every disappointment and time I've been dropped that it just drives me and fuels me to want to get better and hopefully propels me for whenever my next opportunity comes."

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