CricViz analysts Freddie Wilde and Patrick Noone profile Shaun Marsh.
Since Shaun Marsh made his Test debut in September 2011 Australia have played 72 Tests. It is telling of the nature of Marsh’s career that he has played at least a Test in every year apart from 2013 but has only played 23 Tests in total. When Marsh plays his next Test for Australia he will be entering his ninth phase in the team having shown enough promise in four Test hundreds and consistent run-scoring at domestic level to win back selection but never enough consistency to secure his position in the team. Marsh’s great skill is his ability to play spin unusually well for a modern Australian batsman and more recently he has been selected as something of an Asian specialist, replacing Usman Khawaja for Australia’s away series against India. However, three fifties for Western Australia in the Sheffield Shield were enough for him to displace Glenn Maxwell in Australia’s squad.
SPIN SPECIALIST; SEAM STRUGGLES
Marsh begun his Test career batting at number three and has opened the batting on nine occasions but it is indicative of his struggles against pace bowling – against which he averages 27.06 – and his success against spin bowling – against which he averages 57.58 – that he has gradually moved down the order and now finds himself at number six. Although it should be noted he still opens the batting in state cricket.
Marsh’s struggles against pace are not restricted to a specific length or line. Across his Test career Marsh averages 38.00 against full balls, 27.14 against good length balls, 26.25 against short balls and no more than 34.50 against any line. Marsh’s slight preference for full deliveries is apparent in his footwork data which shows him to play 60% of his shots against pace off the front foot (global average 56%). Marsh’s struggles against pace have informed his intent against it, seeing him play no shot to 31% of deliveries (global average 24%) contributing to a scoring rate of just 2.70 runs per over against pace (global average 3.08).
Marsh can take some comfort in that a fair amount of his struggles against pace can be put down to a weakness against the moving ball. Marsh averages just 17.60 against deliveries that deviate off the seam more than 0.75°, compared to 40.60 against balls deviating less than 0.75°. Marsh struggles similarly against the swinging ball, averaging a reasonable 36.00 against balls swinging 1.50° or less but just 11.60 against balls swinging more than 1.50°. Although the ball typically swings less in Australia than elsewhere, batting at number six means Marsh could well be coming to the crease against the second new ball which will challenge this aspect of his game.
Against spin it is a very different story. Among Australians to play more than 25 innings against spin since 2006, Marsh’s average of 57.58 is second only to Ricky Ponting’s and Mike Hussey’s. Central to his method is his confidence rotating the strike and disrupting length – key skills against spin. Marsh averages 50.00 when working the ball and 56.00 when flicking it – these two shots are relatively risk-free but allow him to turn the strike over. Marsh is not a frequent sweeper, playing it slightly less often than the global average, but what he does to disrupt length is come down the track regularly – at 12% of the time (global average 5%) – and effectively, averaging 99.00 when doing so (global average 37.20). Averaging 114.00 defensive shots per dismissal Marsh has strong defensive game as well (global average 85.53).
MAKE HIM PLAY
Early on in Marsh’s innings England’s pacers should look to bowl full and if they can find a hint of movement the evidence suggests Marsh will struggle. Even if they don’t though Marsh’s record against pace should give England plenty of cause for encouragement. Marsh’s one bright spot against pace is an average of 63.00 to half volleys so England should look to bowl just back of that length and keep the line tight, playing on his indecision outside off stump. Across his career, he has been out caught against pace 18 times, 16 of which have come in the arc from the wicketkeeper to backward point.
Marsh boasts an average of 70.66 against off spin and for Moeen Ali his battle with Australia’s number six will be one of his sterner tests in the series. Moeen prefers left-handers to right-handers, largely because he can go round the wicket, pitch the ball straight and spin it away from the outside edge – Moeen has bowled 98% of his deliveries to left-handers from this angle. However, Marsh is particularly strong against off spin from round the wicket, averaging 84.75 while from over the wicket he averages just 42.40. It’ll be intriguing to see if Moeen sticks to his strengths or is forced to adapt.
Freddie Wilde and Patrick Noone are analysts at CricViz. @fwildecricket