Six players to watch in the Marsh Cup

In an ODI in Mohali in March, Ashton Turner’s 43-ball 84 helped Australia chase down 359 © Getty Images

Australia’s domestic 50-over tournament, the revamped Marsh Cup, begins on Saturday in Perth. This season’s edition runs from September until the end of November with some matches now interspersed between the first four Sheffield Shield rounds. Australia’s first ODI assignment after the World Cup semi-final exit isn’t until January but there are six T20Is in October and November to start a prolonged build-up to next year’s T20 World Cup. Here are six players to keep an eye on.

Will Pucovski (Victoria)

The defending champions are flush with Australian stars including the ODI and T20I captain Aaron Finch, Glenn Maxwell, James Pattinson, and they will be led by Peter Handscomb who also played in the World Cup semi-final. But the Victorian hierarchy are keen to give Pucovski an extended run in the top order in white-ball cricket after proving his incredible talent at Shield level. He only played three one-day games for Victoria in 2017 for scores of 15, 0 and 5, and didn’t play in Victoria’s triumph last season, but he got an opportunity to open in two games for Australia A on the recent white-ball portion of the tour of England. Batting alongside Matthew Wade in two matches against Gloucestershire he scored 51 and 137. He will get the chance to settle in among a very experienced top order with the opportunity to add ball-striking and tempo skills to his ability to bat long periods and absorb pressure, which he has already displayed at Shield level.

Ben McDermott (Tasmania)

There will be plenty of attention and excitement on young quick Riley Meredith after his displays in the BBL for the Hobart Hurricanes last season, but there is some excitement around McDermott’s progression as a white-ball player. He played eight T20Is for Australia late last year on the back of a standout domestic 50-over tournament where he made two centuries and a 76 to help Tasmania reach the final. He remains earmarked as a player of national interest after touring with the National Performance Squad to India in August. He will bat in the top order for Tasmania and will also keep wicket in the first couple of games while Wade is rested following an arduous Ashes campaign. McDermott was a wicketkeeper as a junior in Queensland but has never kept for Tasmania. He did some keeping on the NPS tour recently.

Matt Renshaw (Queensland)

There is a perception of Renshaw, rightly or wrongly, that he is a long-form specialist. But he is slowly starting to shed that tag and there is palpable interest and intrigue from up north as to what he could do in the Marsh Cup. His one-day numbers don’t jump off the page, with an average of 36.47 and a strike-rate of 86.06, but he made his first one-day hundred for Kent during his brief stint in England in the early part of the winter. Last season, at the back end of the BBL, he produced a stunning innings in the middle order for Brisbane Heat, smashing 90 not out off 50 balls against Adelaide Strikers. He struck nine fours and four sixes displaying tremendous power and inventiveness to completely overshadow Brendon McCullum in a 122-run stand that helped the Heat pull off a remarkable win. The tournament looms as a good opportunity to showcase his versatility.

Sean Abbott celebrates a wicket © Getty Images

Ashton Turner (Western Australia)

There were a lot of people wondering why he wasn’t part of Australia’s World Cup campaign following his heroics in Mohali earlier this year. What wasn’t widely known was the extent of his right shoulder problems. Turner took the brave decision to forego the Australia A white-ball tour of England, and a chance to get called into the World Cup squad as both Handscomb and Matthew Wade did after injuries to Shaun Marsh and Usman Khawaja, in order to have yet another shoulder operation. This time he had a Latarjet procedure, more common for Australia Rules footballers, which involves a bone graft to avoid ongoing dislocations and stabilise the shoulder better than other procedures he has had. He has recovered and is ready to play and has even begun bowling some offspin again in training. He won’t bowl in games yet, and he will field in the inner ring as his throwing and diving ability still needs to progress. But his freakish power-hitting and brilliant running between the wickets hasn’t diminished and he will be looking to stake a claim for a middle order slot in Australia’s white-ball teams with a good tournament.

Sean Abbott (New South Wales)

He last played for Australia in T20s and a lone ODI way back in 2014 but the need for specialist middle-over and death bowling in Australia’s short-form teams should open the door for a player with his skill set. He was NSW’s leading wicket-taker in last year’s JLT Cup which included two five-wicket hauls and was the second leading wicket-taker in the BBL. He had an excellent Shield season as well and got picked the Australia A tour of England where he took eight wickets in four one-day matches, including 4 for 52 against Gloucestershire, at an economy rate of 4.79. He is an excellent fielder and can provide handy late innings runs when required. He will certainly play in New South Wales’ early fixtures in the Marsh Cup and given the workload restrictions placed on the likes of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood ahead of Australia’s Test summer, he should get the chance to impress throughout the tournament.

Jake Weatherald (South Australia)

There was a lot of excitement around the left-hander last season following a prolific summer in all forms in 2017-18. He started last year’s JLT Cup with a bang making a superb unbeaten century against NSW. He made two more half-centuries in the remainder of the tournament but had a fairly inconsistent season thereafter with a couple of major peaks but quite a few troughs, as can often be the case for opening batsmen. His overall one-day record is outstanding: in 20 matches he averages 46.42 with a phenomenal strike-rate of 102.20 and four centuries. Just shy of his 25th birthday, he is closing in on the period where young batsmen often mature and develop some real consistency in their techniques and methods. South Australia will be hoping he takes that step this season.

Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Melbourne

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Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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