Ugly 130-year first highlights Australia's Marsh problem

Michael Ramsey
Ugly 130-year first highlights Australia's Marsh problem

Australia's cricketing enigma Shaun Marsh has given his detractors further ammunition, succumbing to a woeful dismissal in the first Test against India.

Marsh fell for two, dismissed by Indian offspinner Ravichandran Ashwin for the fifth time in Test cricket, when he attempted to drive a wide-pitched delivery and dragged it onto his stumps in the first over after lunch on Thursday.

His wicket left Australia 3-59 on day two in response to India's 250, with Peter Handscomb and Travis Head settling as the hosts reached 4-117 at tea.

Marsh, thrust into the role of senior batsman alongside Usman Khawaja in the absence of Steve Smith and David Warner, had tuned up for the Test series with scores of 80, 98, 163 not out and 81 among six Sheffield Shield innings.

But his cheap dismissal at Adelaide Oval, which is certain to embolden his many vocal critics, reinforces the enormous and frustrating gulf between his best and worst.

The left-hander's highest score from his past 13 Test innings is 40 and his six consecutive single-figure scores are the most for any Australian batting in the top five since 1888.

A nervous starter beyond compare, Marsh averages almost 60 when he passes 10 but a remarkable 26 of his 62 Test dismissals - including eight this year - have been in single figures.

Shaun Marsh has set a 130-year first as his horror Test run continued. Pic: Getty

Marsh struck career-best form last summer, scoring a man-of-the-match century that delivered Australia a 2-0 series lead and plundering more Ashes runs than any batsman bar Steve Smith.

But he was a non-factor in South Africa and made just 14 runs at an average of 3.5 in the two-Test series against Pakistan in the UAE in October.

"Shocking shot from Shaun Marsh," former Test opener Simon Katich said while commentating on SEN radio.

"He'll be feeling the pressure ... he knows he didn't make any runs in the UAE.

"It's a tough situation ... he's done all he possibly can leading into the Test (by scoring runs in the Sheffield Shield)."

Aussies slip to 4-117 in reply to India's 250

Australia's top order have crumbled with the bat yet again, relinquishing the ascendancy at Adelaide Oval with the hosts scrapping to 4-117 at tea on day two of the first Test against India.

The home side's star-studded pace attack exceeded expectations by restricting India to 250, completing the innings when Josh Hazlewood struck with Friday's first ball.

But the question was always going to be whether Australia could scrape together a winning score in the absence of suspended superstars Steve Smith and David Warner, on whom they have relied so much in recent years.

It's too early to answer but Peter Handscomb and Travis Head, unbeaten on 33 and 17 respectively, face a big ask as they continue to chip away at India's 133-run lead.

Aaron Finch, Marcus Harris, Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh were swept aside as their side slipped to 4-87.

Ravichandran Ashwin, the gun offspinner whose Test bowling average in Australia was an unflattering 54.71 before this game, accounted for left-handers Harris, Khawaja and Marsh.

Harris and Khawaja, who shared a watchful 45-run stand after Finch chopped on in the first over for a third-ball duck, were undone on 26 and 28 respectively by challenging, well-flighted deliveries.

Marsh's sixth-consecutive single-figure score at Test level was more of a gift.

Marsh's eyes lit up at the sight of a wide delivery floated outside off stump by Ashwin but, rather than crack it through covers, the veteran managed a thick edge that dislodged the leg bail.

Finch, playing his first home Test, attempted a loose cover drive to a ball from Ishant Sharma that deserved more respect and ultimately uprooted two stumps.

Harris fared much better on debut, lasting 57 deliveries and surviving a testing early examination that included Jasprit Bumrah consistently slinging the ball down at more than 145 km/h.