‘I’m proud of myself’: the making of Marsh
CRICKET: Mitchell Marsh admits that 12 months ago he wouldn't have been capable of his match-saving knock at the MCG.
The Australian all-rounder's brilliant 181 in the third Test in Perth might have been the breakthrough moment of his career, but the mental strength he showed to bat out the day under extreme pressure to save an Ashes Test was arguably clearer proof he is the real deal.
Marsh's defensive game was criticised heavily in his previous incarnation in the Test side, as he sometimes struggled for a deft touch when required.
But the big right-hander watched patiently and saw off England's threat on Saturday with impressive skill and determination.
Marsh made just 29 not out, but he soaked up 166 balls and never let his concentration lapse.
He was barely into double figures when he'd brought his 100th ball faced, and despite immense scoreboard pressure, Marsh learnt from his error in the first innings and batted like Steve Smith.
Australian coach Darren Lehmann called on Marsh to back up his Perth ton, and in trying conditions on day five, he did just that to inspire further hope that Smith has found his long-term all-rounder.
"I'm really pleased with him the way he played," Smith said.
"Walking off he actually said, 'I'm proud of myself, 12 months ago I wouldn't have been able to do that.'
"He's come a long way. Obviously he had to change the way he normally plays. He's normally very aggressive and very positive. To face 160 balls for his 30-odd was a really good effort."
However, Mitchell Starc began sprint training in a bid to return from his bruised heel injury.
Smith admits he was pleased Australia didn't risk Starc on a flat MCG wicket and has left the door open for his spearhead left-armer to make a quick return.
"I'm happy with the fact he didn't play and do further damage which he could have done on what was a pretty flat wicket," Smith said.
"Having said that, his reverse swing would have been pretty handy out there. We'll look at Sydney, turn up there and see what the wicket is. You never know what you get with Sydney. We've got all options there, we'll wait and see how we go."