The Chronicle

Marsh turns up the heat on Smith


MITCHELL Marsh is hitting the ball “better than anyone” and looms as the X-factor who could lift Australia to a maiden T20 World Cup title and keep run machine Steve Smith sidelined in Saturday’s tournament opener against South Africa.

Teammates have been in awe of the all-rounder’s power hitting in training, after he grabbed his chance while starring at No.3 on white-ball tours of West Indies and Bangladesh.

The No.3 spot in the T20 team has been Smith’s but the superstar was picked just twice by Delhi Capitals coach Ricky Ponting when the Indian Premier League resumed, having baulked at the white-ball tours in which Marsh dominated.

Australian great Shane Warne didn’t pick Smith in his best Australian team for the World Cup, and legendary captain Allan Border has thrown his support behind Marsh.

Adam Gilchrist had Smith “floating” in the middle-order in his best XI, but his spot in the line-up could be determined by how many spinners Australia plays in any one game.

Glenn Maxwell, a walk-up at No.4 in the Australian order after making the IPL team of the tournament batting in that spot, said Marsh could be in a for a “massive” World Cup.

“I think Mitchell Marsh is going to have a massive tournament,” Maxwell said. “I don’t think I’ve seen anyone hit the ball better – ever.

“We all gathered around his nets and just watched him hit the ball. It’s been pretty extraordin­ary to watch him go about his business.

“I’d be really surprised if he didn’t have a good tournament. His presence around the group, regardless of what he’s doing, is second to none. He’s the guy everyone wants in the team. He’s flying.”

Border told Fox Sports that Australia needed the “power hitting of Mitch Marsh” but conceded Smith would be “hard to leave out”.

Marsh made three 50s in five T20s against West Indies in July, then punched out scores of 45, 45 and 51 in lowscoring affairs in Bangladesh.

He was Australia’s leading run-scorer across the two series by some way with 377 – 200 more than any of his teammates.

The right-hander also scored 24 from 15 balls in Australia’s opening T20 World Cup warm-up win over New Zealand, coming in early after David Warner’s first-ball duck.

Maxwell has predicted big runs at the top of the order will be crucial at the World Cup that is being played at the same venues as the IPL in the United Arab Emirates.

That could make the power hitting of Marsh more crucial than Smith’s capacity to control a run chase.

“I think it’s about cashing in at the front end and then trying to hold off as long as possible,” Maxwell said.

 ?? ?? Mitchell Marsh.
Mitchell Marsh.

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