14/04/2024

Marcus Harris was the pick of the Australian batters in the first innings. (Image: ICC/Twitter)

Marcus Harris toiled his way to a score of 76 in the first innings of the Boxing Day test, the best of the Australians so far, but is it enough to keep him in the test squad?

Coming into the 2021 Boxing Day Test match at the MCG, a ground very familiar to Marcus Harris, the pressure to score Test runs was at an all-time high for the opener.

Ahead of the third Test, Harris had produced scores of 3, 9*, 3 and 23 from the first two matches of the Ashes series, leaving Australian fans dissatisfied.

Boasting four players in the top ten of the ICC men’s batting rankings, Australia has been able to afford the cost of carrying an out-of-form batter against an under-performing England squad.

Despite the patience displayed by the Australian coaches and selectors to persist with Harris at the top of the order, the fans hold the spot to a much greater standard.

The noise leading into the Boxing Day Test became louder than ever in favour of Harris being replaced, with experienced squad member, Usman Khawaja, a favourite to become David Warner’s new opening partner.

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Since the retirement of Chris Rogers in 2015, Australia has struggled to find a long-term solution for its top order position.

Joe Burns, Matthew Renshaw, Cameron Bancroft and Aaron Finch have all unsuccessfully attempted to make the opening spot their own. Burns is the only member of the group to have played more than 20 Test matches during his tenure of being in and out of the squad.

23-year-old Will Pucovski is believed to be a promising talent for the future, however, the youngster has consistently been troubled with mental health concerns, concussion and injury.

With the spotlight firmly on Marcus Harris in this Test match, the Victorian opener did well to be the pick of the Australian batters in the first innings.

Harris toiled his way to a gutsy 76, a knock that spanned across two days, before England great James Anderson finally found the edge of the bat.

Anderson earned Harris’ praise after the end of play on day three, after the veteran bowler took 4/33 from his 23 overs, including 10 maidens.

“He’s is a pretty good bowler, that’s probably why he’s played as many games as he has and taken as many wickets as he has,” Harris said.

“It was a good challenge, he bowled really well, it sort of felt like the ball did a bit more after the first hour today, so it was credit to them for how well they bowled.

“It was hard work, a bit of a grind, it was a good challenge.”

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Understanding the importance of scoring runs in this match, the MCG a ground at which he’s played many innings for Victoria, Harris was pleased to have finally put a significant score on the board.

“It was good to spend some time in the middle, it has obviously been a tough first couple of games for myself.”

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Australian selectors were strong on their stance that Harris would be given a fair go to prove himself this series, a level of support that the opener is grateful for.

“I’ve been really fortunate with the support I’ve had for the whole summer, it can be hard personally when the team’s going well and you haven’t quite contributed like the way you want to,” he said.

“Obviously talk starts about your spot in the team. The coaching staff and selectors have been so supportive so I haven’t had to worry about that stuff at all.

“Personally, you want to do well all the time but credit to all the coaches and selectors, they’ve been brilliant so far, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Harris showed his willingness to experiment in order to improve his scoring ability, introducing a ‘shuffle’ of sorts to improve his foot movement as the bowlers deliver, among other changes.

“Coming into this game, my main focus was to try and play the ball a little bit later, which I did for that night session in Adelaide,” he said.

“Coming out the next day I probably pushed the ball a little bit hard which brought in my dismissal to Stuart Broad. On this wicket, with it moving around, you’ve got to give yourself as much time as you can.

“I haven’t wavered off anything from coaches or selectors through the whole series, they’ve been really good, the support has been amazing, as a player that can put your mind at ease a bit.”

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