Cricket: Australia-England: Shaun Marsh Stars As England Suffer Another Meltdown

Richard O'HaganCorrespondent IIJanuary 21, 2011

Doug Bollinger (left) and Shaun Marsh saved Australia
Doug Bollinger (left) and Shaun Marsh saved AustraliaMark Nolan/Getty Images

The record books will show that Australia won this game by the very comfortable margin of 46 runs, but that will not come close to describing the drama of a game, which for its first three quarters, swung between the participants like a particularly successful session of Chat roulette.

At 33-4 after more than 12 overs, with Watson, Haddin, Hussey and Clarke all back in the pavillion, Australia looked like they were heading for a heavy defeat.

Then Shaun Marsh joined Cameron White and the pair put on exactly 100 for the fifth wicket, combining some flamboyant shots with a considerable degree of circumspection—White will surely never make so many runs at so slow a strike rate again—as the England attack was made to look pretty ordinary.

And then came another collapse, with Smith, Hauritz and Lee contributing only two runs between them as 133-4 became 142-8.

At this point, Australia looked dead and buried and England were expecting a series-levelling victory.

But the game swung the other way.

Fast bowler Doug Bollinger joined Marsh and proved unexpectedly capable with the bat as the pair added an Australian record 84 for the ninth wicket, with Bollinger chipping in 30 of them.

A total of 231 was still well below par and England should have won easily, but it was not to be.

First of all, Matt Prior, returning to the side after his recall to the world cup squad, was dismissed for a duck by a peach of a ball from Brett Lee. Then Bollinger did what he is paid for and removed Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen in consecutive balls.

This left England as much in the mire as Australia had been, but the difference was that no one was able to pull them out of it. Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell gave some semblance of order to the innings, but both perished to rash shots. Trott, inexcusably, was caught swiping at the "sit up and hit me" alleged leg spin of Steve Smith.

Wickets fell steadily thereafter, no one was able to make much headway against a varied Australian attack and when England were shot out for 184 with plenty of overs left

Marsh offered but one chance on his way to 110, Ajmal Shehzad dropping a sharp return catch on 61, but the nerveless way that he went to his hundred, taking 17 from an over from Michael Yardy, bodes well for the Australian cause should he have to replace Michael Husseywho had surgery on a hamstring problem this week in the world cup.

In fact, the significance of this game may not be in the result, or the manner of it, but in the fact that it may have done some significant damage to both sides' world cup squads.

Australia lost both Shaun Tait and Nathan Hauritz to injury during the game, the latter leaving in particular pain after apparently dislocating an shoulder when diving in the outfield.

For England, already shorn of three front line bowlers in James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann, it will have been particularly worrying to see Tim Bresnan injure a calf whilst batting.

There are still four weeks until the competition starts, but at this rate of attrition, the next five games could wipe out an entire squad.