Marcus Harris scored a wonderful 70 off 141 balls to put Australia into a commendable position of 277-6 after the first day of the second Test in Perth.
There is a lot of resemblance between David Warner and Marcus Harris. They are both left-handed, both small in stature, both like to wear a white wristband on their right arm and of course, are both opening batsmen. But then one observes Harris from side on and with his feet close together, the short back lift as well as the Western Australian background, and he also reminds you of Justin Langer.
The way he square drives mirrors Chris Rogers. Harris might be nice blend of three formidable opening Australian batsmen, but on Friday, the 26-year-old found his own identity by scoring a wonderful 70 off 141 balls to put Australia into a commendable position of 277-6 after the first day of the second Test in Perth.
In Adelaide on debut, he had the luxury of watching his opening partner take strike for the first ball. On Friday, his opening partner, Aaron Finch decided that it was Harris's turn. For 16 balls and close to 20 minutes, he would have looked at the two gigantic screens inside the Optus Stadium and seen a zero against his name. It took him until the sixth over to get off the mark, that too courtesy of a thick inside edge down to fine leg. Jasprit Bumrah had set him up perfectly by operating outside his off-stump before looking to trap him in front of his stumps. Harris survived by a whisker, but he had a run registered to his name, and could breathe a sigh of relief.
It might have been only his second match, but it was here in Perth that he grew up playing cricket hoping to one day live his childhood dream of wearing the baggy green. That vision came true last week in Adelaide, but it was in his home city that he would have been desperate to succeed. Few balls after getting off the dreaded naught came along a few gentle offerings by the Indian seamers. A clip down the leg-side side for four followed by a genuine half-volley that he stroked past the bowler for a boundary. Harris was off the mark, and there was suddenly a nice rhythm to his batting.
Harris would take great pleasure in the fact that rather than the runs, it was his technique that allowed him to confront the seam movement in the initial stages of his innings. The heavy grass surface didn't deter him as he defended with hands close to his body or got a good stride towards the line of the ball before shouldering arms. This simple method had allowed him to overcome the opening burst from the Indian bowlers.
By the time Umesh Yadav had been introduced to the bowling crease, Harris had gathered the pace and the bounce of the pitch. The first and the last ball of Yadav's over were stroked with charisma to the fence. Harris' recipe was rather simple — defend or leave anything in the channel of the fourth or fifth stump and then cash in on anything loose. The theory might sound simple enough, but it takes an opening batsman with a great temperament to execute it time and time again. At the end of the first hour, Harris had already moved to 32 from 46 balls and he had barely hit a ball in anger. It was a great template for opening batsmen to follow.
More importantly, Harris knew when to attack and when to go into his shell. Bumrah returned to the crease shortly before lunch, and bowled a sensational spell. Harris immediately noticed this was a time to constrain his stroke play. He was beaten a couple of times but found a way to remain unbeaten at lunch.
After the interval, he upped the tempo and put the pressure back on India. He continued to play in the ‘V' and put on an exhibition of cover and square drives. Three times in his innings, he hit two boundaries in one over. It was a flick off his thigh that brought up his maiden half-century. He clenched his fist, almost Warner like and acknowledged Langer's applause from the coach's box.
Before the match, Harris had revealed his conversation with Langer. "It wasn't too much technical. The longer we can occupy the crease the more pressure we can put on them and the more spells they have to bowl. I think we saw towards the end of day five in Adelaide once the boys went into their third and fourth spells it gets harder and harder and probably a bit easier to bat."
Harris had put all of Langer's words into practice perfectly on Friday. After crossing his fifty, he continued to treat each ball on its merit and as his stature grew with each delivery. He eventually perished to a short ball from off-spinner Hanuma Vihari for 70, but during his three-hour stay, Harris had shown that he well and truly belongs to Test cricket.
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