Left to dine on humble pie

December 05, 2017

Shaun Marsh celebrates his gutsy century on the second day of the Adelaide Test.

The man in the gloves Tim Paine enjoys the moment after bringing up his half-century on day two of the Adelaide Test. Picture: AAP Image/Dave Hun

England captain Joe Root must be ruing his decision to send Australia in to bat first after winning the toss. Picture: AAP Image/David Mariuz


It is a rare commodity in international sport, especially for Australians selected by Trevor Hohns.

But Shaun Marsh has found it in spades.

When the much-maligned left-hander pulled Chris Woakes behind square for a well-deserved ton he had earned his redemption — and then some.

At the end of a day two cut short by rain, England sat at 1-29.

That the home side had first compiled 8-442 declared is the most hilarious part of the scoreline though.

Poor, poor Joe Root.

If it wasn’t so funny I would certainly feel bad for the fledgling captain of the Old Enemy.

As I crossed through the ingeniously-named Bordertown on my way — you guessed it — across the border between Victoria and South Australia on Saturday, the news filtered in that Root had won the toss at the Adelaide Oval.

Immediately the heart sank. We would have to bowl first in the inaugural men’s day-night Ashes Test (for those of you with short memories the Women’s Ashes Test was on only a few weeks ago under the lights of North Sydney Oval and Ellyse Perry made it her own with an unbeaten double ton), and would likely be sent in under lights at the end of day one to face a hooping pink ball.

And then the moment of fleeting fear passed as it was announced England would bowl.

Cackles of laughter sprang forth from across the country, Steve Smith could hardly contain his disbelief and Nasser Hussain squirmed in his seat.

For those of you new to the Ashes, Hussain infamously bowled first at the Gabba in 2002 after winning the toss, and when Australia finished the day on 2-364 the series was all-but over.

I imagine England fans were as underwhelmed with their captain’s decision as I continually am with the approach to Adelaide by car.

No other capital city I have visited (and I’m only a trip to Hobart short of a full house) creeps up on you like the City of Churches does.

One minute you are holding on for dear life down a massive mountain and the next you can see the ‘‘skyline’’ just a kilometre away.

But I digress.

Root subjected his bowlers to the kind of pressure the batting side should have been under when he chose to not let his opening batsmen stride confidently to the crease on an absolute road.

Australia could have been taking guard in the middle of Rundle Mall with two giant silver balls as stumps for much of the first two days as they piled on a huge score — with every player in the side for his prowess with the blade (and then some) gaining a strong start.

But the fact that only one man went on with the job is not lost on me.

Marsh, who was brought into the side under a literal ton of pressure, turned that weight of expectation into a diamond in the form of a gritty and determined century.

Sitting in the nosebleed section of Adelaide Oval on Sunday I was at first reluctant to cheer for the West Australian.

But by the time he found the boundary to bring up triple figures I was in raptures with the rest of the strong crowd.

He, along with Tim Paine, repaid the faith of the National Selection Panel with more interest than a long-term savings bond.

Paine’s half-century especially — his first in the Test arena in more than seven years — put England on the back foot after it had struck so early in the second day.

The Decision Review System troubles that plagued James Anderson during the knock were just an added part of the fun.

In short, that humble pie continues to taste awful on the way down as I slowly churn through it.

My thoughts were harsh and well documented leading into the first Test after Marsh and Paine were included and Matthew Renshaw and Glenn Maxwell were left out.

I have clearly been proven wrong so far this series as Marsh has twice saved his country in as many digs and Paine has looked every bit the nation’s first-choice keeper.

But at least I didn’t win the toss and bowl first.

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