Marcus Harris’ century in the second innings of Victoria’s first Sheffield Shield match of the season last week has coach Chris Rogers confirming he’s up for the challenge having worked on his game’s issues.
Victoria’s opening batter, Harris delivered a knock of 137 off 361 balls in the second innings of the side’s 204-run victory against New South Wales to begin its 2021/22 Sheffield Shield campaign.
Burdened at times when selected for the national Test team, he often failed to fire with his Test average standing at 23.78. From 10 matches and 19 innings, he has two half centuries to his name – his highest score of 79 coming against India at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 2019.
However, the left-hander has displayed his intent to bat for prolonged periods of time, and showed he had a resilience and determination to keep his eye in and make runs, as evidenced by Victoria’s opening Sheffield Shield game.
It’s a score and an outing which Victorian head coach Rogers says might have national selectors identifying a rectified change to Harris’ technique that has hampered his output in recent years.
“There’s definitely some technical issues he’s been working through,” Rogers told media on Wednesday.
“I think the fact that… it’s been widely recognised, so just about every bowler comes around the wicket and targets him straight away so he’s had plenty of experience in the last 12 months I guess, against that and has performed really well.
“I think he’s averaged over 55 in all first-class competition so we’re seeing him continually improve that, and hopefully he gets another opportunity and shows that he’s kind of addressed a couple of those issues.”
The short ball has been the itch of Harris across his career, something that he and Rogers are expecting opposition teams to know and utilise against him. However, it’s one aspect of his game that Harris has been working on, says Rogers.
“No doubt that the bowlers are going to use the short ball tactic on him,” Rogers said.
“I think he’s understanding of that and even a lot of the work that kind of went into his game leading into the last season was about how he played that and actually, [he’s] already played it really well in the two Sheffield Shield games in Adelaide.
“He played the short ball well so he understands what the situation is and he will continue to try to address the situation. I guess it’s always gonna be up there and it’s just up to him to cope with it.”
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Having taken his trade to the United Kingdom during the year, it was the first year Harris had experienced domestic cricket in England, representing Leicestershire in the County Championship and One-Day Cup.
While playing for Leicestershire in the County Championship, he made 665 runs in 13 innings at an average of 54.58, scoring three centuries, his maiden century coming in his third match against Surrey – the first of three consecutive scores above 100. In the One-Day Cup, Harris contributed 232 runs in four innings at an average of 58.00 with one century.
According to Rogers, Harris has learnt a lot over the course of the year from his time in England. With the upcoming Ashes series against England nearing, it puts him in prime position for a Test recall but the coach identifies the preparations are different.
“I think it’s very different with that challenge against the Kookaburra in Australia to the Dukes in England,” Rogers said.
“The ball is not going to be swinging anywhere near as much but no doubt there will still be that challenge for him.”
Continuing to touch on Harris’ attempt to get back into style of play he’s capable of with his batting he’s shown on many occasions, Rogers knows how valuable the opener’s time in England would have been – even if it was cut early by Harris himself.
“I think Andrew [McDonald] pointed out, he got a lot of questions asking of him by the England bowlers and you don’t walk away from that experience thinking everything’s okay,” Rogers admitted.
“You start to doubt yourself a little bit and he kind of, y’know, he went back to the drawing board and tried to work through a lot of these issues so that takes time.
“I think some of these technical issues can take up to a couple of years to kind of work through and I think going and playing in England was just fantastic because he got to spend a lot of time in the middle tinkering with a few of these adjustments. Then to come back and play such a assured innings I thought was fantastic and shows he’s comfortable with everything he’s done.”
That assured innings included a 261-run partnership with Nic Maddinson – who also scored a century – in the second innings that set up a large lead for Victoria heading into the last moments of Day 3 of last week’s Sheffield Shield fixture.
Maddinson is another that is vying for Test selection, but Rogers remains calm knowing neither player would obstruct the other’s path to selection, despite their similar roles.
“It’s one of those things that, they do get on well and I think that makes a big difference but they are both understanding that selection [is] out of their hands,” Rogers said.
“They are not going to go out and try and run each other out, that’s just not how it works. They’re just going to both go out and do the best they can, support each other and what will be, will be.
“I think that there’s a lot of support in the side for both of them as well which makes a big difference and helps that dynamic.”
With the impending Ashes series creeping closer with the first Test scheduled from December 8 at The Gabba in Brisbane, Rogers expressed the importance of getting as much preparation of first-class cricket in before then.
With a lack of first-class cricket and opportunities for Australian players with the red ball, in recent months, Rogers says adaptation would be key to cover up for any lost chances.
“I think the best prep for a Test series is a number of first-class games,” he confessed.
“I guess there’s a fair bit of experience with the guys who are kind of jumping in and out of form and hopefully they can adapt quickly. And they know their game well enough but yeah, it’s gonna be a little bit of an issue.
“There might be a bit of rustiness but equally, England [has] been through the ringer with the amount of cricket they play so they’re coming in from a different end of the spectrum.
“Both sides have got issues to confront, but hopefully the Australian side will be in fine form come the Ashes.”
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