Usman Khawaja vs Shaun Marsh: The Sportsrush analyses who out of Khawaja or Marsh fittingly deserves to play at No. 3 vs Afghanistan.
“We [myself and Shaun Marsh] are really good friends and whenever he plays I wish he gets a hundred and I’m sure he wishes the same for me as well. We are best friends and we are enjoying each other’s company,” Australia batsman Usman Khawaja was quoted as saying after scoring 89 (105) in their second warm-up match against Sri Lanka.
Khawaja’s reply came after he was asked about competition with fellow southpaw in Shaun Marsh. While both the experienced campaigners have it in them to bat at No. 3 (or any other position), it is almost unlikely that both of them will play together.
Come June 1, Australia will have to take a massive call with respect to benching one of their in-form batsman in their 2019 World Cup opener against Afghanistan at Bristol. Although the duo shared a praiseworthy 80-run partnership for the second wicket tomorrow, Khawaja and Marsh continuing to “enjoy each other’s company” seems highly unlikely.
The reason why Khawaja and Marsh face the current situation is because of their consistent performances in the recent times which raised their stakes in the first place. And the reason why both of them are unlikely to play together is them being left-handed batsmen who have a strike rate in the early 80s, none of them bowls and Aaron Finch is the captain (hence, not the ideal person to be dropped).
What are the other options for Australia?
With Finch and David Warner set to open, Steven Smith to bat at No. 4 and Alex Carey as the designated wicket-keeper batsman, the only batsmen who remain are Khawaja, Marsh and the all-rounder duo of Marcus Stoinis and Glenn Maxwell.
Watching Sri Lanka bowl vs Australia, its clear that the bowling lacks the penetration than anything outstanding in the batting. This takes nothing away from Marsh and Khawaja they have done no wrong.
— Roshan Abeysinghe (@RoshanCricket) May 27, 2019
Both Stoinis and Maxwell’s batting numbers are nowhere near Khawaja and Marsh’s numbers. The reason why their position isn’t being questioned is because of their ability to contribute with the ball and Australia’s necessity to play at least six bowling options.
In such a scenario, Australia have no other option than to omit one out of Khawaja and Marsh from their playing XI on June 1.
Usman Khawaja vs Shaun Marsh – Numbers at a glance
It all started after both batsmen’s respective comebacks into Australia’s ODI side. While Khawaja made his comeback after two years during the India series earlier this year, Marsh had been recalled after more than a year during the tour of England last year.
In 13 ODIs since then, Khawaja has scored 769 runs at an average of 59.15 and a strike rate of 83.58 including two centuries and six half-centuries. On the other hand, Marsh has scored 851 runs in 18 matches at an average of 53.18 and a strike rate of 91.60 including four centuries and three half-centuries.
While Marsh has a comparatively lower average, his strike rate should suit the expected run rate for the looming World Cup. Moreover, a better conversion rate means that he is more likely to play those potentially match-winning innings for Australia.
Usman Khawaja vs Shaun Marsh – Batting at No. 3 and playing in England
With Smith expected to bat at No. 4, what also works in Marsh’s favour is that the position in contention in No. 3. Three out of Marsh’s four centuries during this period have come at come at No. 3. On the other hand, Khawaja has a solitary half-century at No. 3 to his name.
Usman Khawaja (32* off 34) and Shaun Marsh (20* off 22) at the crease together. Strong chance there’s only room for one come Saturday. Bit of a showdown for the No.3 role unfolding off Broadway in Southampton. Who should Australia pick? #CWC19
— Sam Landsberger 🗯 (@SamLandsberger) May 27, 2019
Overall at No. 3 in ODIs, Khawaja has scored 219 runs in 10 matches at an average of 24.33 and a strike rate of 71.80 including a couple of half-centuries. At the same position, Marsh has scored 767 runs in 19 matches at an average of 45.11 and a strike rate of 87.85 including three centuries and four half-centuries.
A reason why Khawaja might be made to sit out is that he is yet to play an ODI in England. His competitor in Marsh has played nine ODIs in English conditions, scoring 372 runs at an average of 46.50 and a strike rate of 99.46 including two centuries and a half-century.
Usman Khawaja vs Shaun Marsh – Final Verdict
For two batsmen who have done well lately, benching one of them will unequivocally be unfair. But that’s cricket (and life). Going by the above mentioned numbers, Marsh seems to be an apposite candidate when it comes to batting at No. 3 in a World Cup slated to be played in England. Had the available position been of an opening batsman, the verdict would have been in Khawaja’s favour.