Behind the bar in the Marsh family home there is a photo of Geoff walking off Trent Bridge with Mark Taylor after the opening pair batted all day for Australia against England on the triumphant 1989 Ashes tour.
Twenty-eight years later in Perth, Australia did lose a wicket, but the exit of Shaun Marsh opened the way for Mitchell Marsh‘s breakthrough innings opposite the captain Steven Smith, with the Marsh family present in the middle throughout. As far as scripts are concerned, the family and the WACA could not have found a better one.
“It’s pretty special,” Marsh said. “Dad always had a photo of him and Mark Taylor walking off the ground with the scorecard in his bar, so I grew up looking at that photo. Today was just a great day for Australia, to only lose one wicket for the whole day has really put us in a strong position now.
“[This series] was more special for Shaun because two months ago he didn’t really think he was ever going to play for Australia again. I remember sitting at his house when he was selected, we were having a cold beer together and he was pretty emotional. For him to do what he’s done for Australia now just goes to show you can’t ever give up, he’s in great form and hopefully he can hold his spot down for a long time now.”
Mitchell Marsh’s journey to this innings had begun with a shoulder injury that not only forced surgery but gave him time to concentrate solely on his batting. With the help of Scott Meuleman, who spoke to ESPNcricinfo about their work together, Marsh tightened his game considerably and has emerged as a greatly improved batsman, just as the selectors had asked of him.
“I certainly had moments throughout my shoulder rehab where I thought maybe I wasn’t going to get back,” Marsh said of his rehabilitation from shoulder surgery, “because it takes a long time and as an athlete whenever you’re out it’s all about getting back as soon as you can and you have frustrating moments, but it’s certainly all worth it now.
“I felt like [reward for] my hard work in the off-season started with my first game for WA. I felt like my game had changed from the last time I played cricket for Australia. That’s a great feeling, it’s an amazing feeling right now to have a Test century under my belt after eight months of hard work. Scott’s really changed the way I play and changed the way I think about the game, and he’s been unbelievable for me.
“I’ve always said, the selectors and Steve said that if I’m going to be playing cricket for Australia I have to be the sixth best batsman and be a No. 6 batsman and my bowling’s a bonus. I’ve worked extremely hard on my batting, and that was the one area that was going to keep me out of the Australian team and I’m just really glad I’ve taken the opportunity.”
At the moment Marsh reached his hundred he celebrated with a raw and unconfined gusto that underlined all that it meant, and revealed that his mind had been so much at ease in the middle that he had not been enveloped with the usual 90s nerves.
“I think everyone says it, but it really was just pure elation,” Marsh said. “I didn’t really feel too nervous in the 90s, it was almost a bit of a weird feeling when I got in there. Any time you’re in the 90s as a batsman you can’t help but not think about making a hundred. I just tried to focus on watching the ball as hard as I could. I don’t really remember too much about the celebration, I’m certainly not a jumper, don’t have too many springs in my step, so I just went for the first pump, I think.”
That, though, was not the whole job. Marsh and Smith accelerated after tea but then throttled back notably in the final half an hour. They clearly wanted to preserve their wickets to drive further at England on day four.
“Once we got to the 10-over mark I wanted to make sure Painey didn’t have to come out and bat after having the pads on all day,” Marsh said. “I think we’re 130 ahead right now and to go into tomorrow only four down puts us in a really great position to put our foot on their throat.”
Before the foot is placed there, however, there was one more nicely serendipitous part of the Marsh day – a barbecue at the family home. Both Shaun and Mitch have now got Test scores to top the 138 Geoff made at Trent Bridge. “I’ll let dad know,” Mitchell said with a smile, “that I passed him.”