Mitch Marsh celebrates after scoring a Sheffield Shield century against Queensland at the WACA in late November.
Mitch Marsh celebrates after scoring a Sheffield Shield century against Queensland at the WACA in late November.

Hayden’s Ashes dagger: ‘Exposed as a shambles’

WHEN the Australian cricket team is strong it's always had a really solid all-rounder.

Mitch Marsh hasn't proven to be that during his first 21 Tests but he's been working extremely hard on his game to realise his talent and at 26 now is his time.

Justin Langer has done an amazing job getting him back to this point and it's time to back him in the same way his brother Shaun was. The only place Mitch can learn now is in Test cricket.

I'm conflicted about calling him in for the Third Test though because I like Pete Handscomb. He's a really good cricketer and adds weight to the side, including the courage he shows at bat-pad. He's a really important part of Australian cricket's future as a leader and an unorthodox batsman - in the same mould as Steve Smith.

The premise behind the decision is a horses for courses approach. As we move in to the Christmas season bowling workload is a critical element.

We've only used four bowlers in the first two Tests and they've bowled a truckload of overs. We need cover, particularly for Pat Cummins.

Having said that, I hope Mitch isn't in the XI when play begins on Thursday morning because if we want to win the Ashes inside the next three days we should be approaching this Test a different way.

Everyone is focused on playing the man - what changes we should bring in to the team - when we should be locked in on the position of the series.

My challenge to the curator in Perth, and Cricket Australia in general, is to provide a pitch that plays to our strength - our quality seam bowlers.

The WACA wicket is currently covered in grass. If that grass goes - because the groundsmen decide to cut it off - the pitch will be an absolute road.

If that happens, there's no way we can go into the game without a fifth bowling option.

But I'm calling for whoever makes the decision to leave the grass on it.

At 2-0 up in the series, let's get on the front foot, leave the grass on and play with an unchanged side. We've got nothing to lose.

England have to win this and their batsmen, I'm sorry, are not going to stand-up to the pressure.

Peter Handscomb has scores of 14, 36 and 12 in the Ashes.
Peter Handscomb has scores of 14, 36 and 12 in the Ashes.

I'm not saying prepare an absolutely raging green seamer, but let's leave the grass on and leave it as a bat-versus-ball contest.

We're vulnerable as well with quality fast bowling but everyone is. James Anderson was a genius in that session in Adelaide and tore us apart. But we didn't lose.

Even with only a 170-odd runs to get at the start of day five I thought England was no hope of winning, because they were reliant on their crusty middle order doing the job against our bowlers.

Joe Root and Alastair Cook aside, it's an unproven team in Test match cricket in Australia. They've been exposed as a shambles against quality fast bowling.

The other option is a drawn-out battle of attrition which will suit England as much as anyone.

We've exposed England's jugular, it's time to go in for the kill and bring home the Ashes.

Australia has shown historically in the absence of a quality all-rounder backing seam attacks with a quality spinner is enough. We had Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath who would hold down an end for as long it took to win. This is what this side is capable of doing. It's got three world-class seamers and Nathan Lyon who is on fire.

So where does that leave Mitch? Whether he plays or not in Perth - or later in the series - is really subject to the conditions.

We could need him in Melbourne because it's normally a really flat wicket that doesn't break up.

Until then, Mitch, get in the nets, keep getting physiotherapy on your shoulder and get comfortable in the national set-up again. You're back. We'll be calling on you soon.