Australia match-winner Marsh relishing T20 finisher role


Southampton (United Kingdom) (AFP)

Mitchell Marsh said he had "loved finishing off the game for the boys" as he marked his return to competitive cricket by seeing Australia to a five-wicket win over England in the third Twenty20 international at Southampton on Tuesday.

Australia still lost the three-match series 2-1 but this victory ensured they regained top spot in the global T20 rankings from arch-rivals England.

Set just 146 to win, Australia were cruising at 86-2.

But having suffered a dramatic collapse in the series opener, Australia then saw leg-spinner Adil Rashid remove Glenn Maxwell, skipper Aaron Finch and star batsman Steve Smith in 11 balls.

But Marsh, with a career-best 39 not out at this level, and Western Australia team-mate Ashton Agar (16 not out) shared an unbroken partnership of 47 as the tourists won with three balls to spare.

Finishing a T20 innings has proved a problem for an Australia side packed with top-order talent.

But all-rounder Marsh could be the man to fill that role ahead of next year's T20 World Cup in India.

"I've played in this role for most of my career even though for the (Perth) Scorchers I bat a bit higher up the order and have a bit more time to get in," player of the match Marsh told reporters.

It was his first senior appearance since a one-day international against New Zealand at Sydney in March after the coronavirus pandemic upended the global cricket calendar.

- 'World-class' Rashid -

"I loved tonight, loved finishing off the game for the boys and contributing to a great win," the 28-year-old added. "It's a hard spot to bat. Finishing the game you find yourself in different situations.

"I was thinking about it tonight, just loving the experience of that again, getting out there and having that feeling of being under pressure -- that's why we play."

Marsh, who might have been twice out for under 10, said starting his innings against Rashid -- who took an impressive 3-21, had been tough.

"Adil Rashid's a great bowler. He's got great numbers over a long period of time for England and he's one of the best spinners in the world in white-ball cricket.

"He bowled beautifully again tonight."

Marsh's view was endorsed by stand-in England captain Moeen Ali, who said: "Adil is an amazing bowler for us. When he is bowling like that he is the best in the world."

England's modest total of 145-6 on Tuesday may have owed something to the fact they were without four frontline batsmen.

Both regular captain Eoin Morgan and opener Jason Roy were injured, Ben Stokes was still on compassionate leave in New Zealand with his ill father and player of the series Jos Buttler was allowed to miss this match to spend time with his family after 10 weeks in the bio-secure bubble.

In their absence, opener Jonny Bairstow's 55 was the only England innings of note on Tuesday.

"When missing four world-class players, four players who are in our (best) team, it's a big miss," said Moeen.

"I wouldn't say it was too far -- I thought we had a good enough team, but obviously we were short with the bat.

"We have learnt that we have a top bowling attack and when Stokesy, Jos, Morgs and Jason come back in, we will have a formidable side."

England, however, might still have won had they not missed several chances in a sloppy fielding display.

"We saw in the first game that if you put Australia under pressure, you push back, they crumble," said Moeen. "Even with a low score like that... if we take those chances I feel we could have won the game for sure."

England, the 50-over world champions, and Australia now head north to Manchester for a three-match one-day international series starting on Friday.

It will be the first time they have played an ODI since England beat Australia in the semi-finals of last year's World Cup.