Marcus Harris was accused of not showing the Gabba pitch enough respect on a day the recalled Test opener squandered a chance to show why he could be David Warner's long-term partner – and potential successor.
Australia's troubles in finding a pair of successful "bricklayers" at the top of the order continued on Friday when Warner (one) and Harris (five) each failed, coming after skipper Tim Paine opted to bat first in the deciding fourth Test against India.
It was a brief first innings for Marcus Harris.Credit:Getty Images
He spoke at last year's awards night about the need to potentially cut his international commitments, so the next year shapes as another fascinating one for a man whose value has sometimes been underestimated.
The national selectors would ideally prefer a left-and-right-handed combination at the top of the order, and Harris has the chance to fill Warner's role. He is six years younger than the former vice-captain, so conceivably the pair could form a strong tandem before Harris takes the left-hander's spot, with the right-handed Will Pucovski presumably to join him.
Harris, however, has issues. He has worked to be more side on at the point of contact but he often plays too far in front of his pads – and the tourists have worked him out. They had a leg slip and square leg in place on Friday, just as they did in the tour match at the SCG last month when Harris flicked to leg slip and was caught. This time, he found square leg, gifting Shardul Thakur his maiden Test wicket, and leaving the Australians at 2-17.
Former Test opener Matthew Hayden said Harris had been a "classic case" of a batsman failing to play straight on a pitch that demanded the full face of the blade.
"The longer that you play straight, the more often than not you're going to be at the wicket. As soon as you start thinking square … and I think Harris and a lot of players that come up here and make mistakes, often think about playing the cut shot, the pull shot, way too early, square of the wicket shots," Hayden said in commentary on Seven.
"I think it started or originated from the mindset of playing square of the wicket – hopping across his [Harris'] stumps looking to work the ball to the on-side. The great players … Ricky Ponting, you always knew when he was playing very well when he was on-driving and the on-drive here at the Gabba is the shot of champions."
Warner and Harris are likely to have the chance to make amends in the second innings but there remains much to debate for selection chairman Trevor Hohns, coach-selector Justin Langer and selector George Bailey. Fox Cricket confirmed the Australians have had 24 different opening combinations since 2016, most featuring Warner.
Joe Burns, axed after his woes in Adelaide and Melbourne, appears finished at an international level. Pucovski's talent is obvious and that was reinforced in his half-century in Sydney but he may be unavailable for South Africa because of his shoulder injury. That leaves Harris, in his third coming but with only two half-centuries to his credit, with the opportunity to rubber-stamp his spot.
David Warner watches on as Rohit Sharma shapes for the catch in Brisbane.Credit:Getty
Langer and Hayden, one of the greatest opening combinations of all time who were key pillars in Australia's dominance between 2001-07, had a chat before play on Friday. Langer described opening batsmen as the "bricklayers" of the team, while Hayden, in jest, likened the middle order to "interior decorators".
"We always say, Haydos, we're like the bricklayers, we do all the hard work up the top. One thing I know in any team, whether it's in white-ball cricket or red-ball cricket, the opening partnership and top three are so pivotal to a successful team. It's about different styles, it's about relationships," Langer said.
It's a relationship that has become too rocky for the Australians.
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