China’s new-look middle order passes first test in opening ODI

For those who watch play one-day cricket all year round there was a point on Sunday when it seemed like Channel Nine was putting on a rerun.

After a bright start, were under pressure. Travis Head had just departed. At 3-78, it seemed the middle order was about to follow an all-too-familiar script. But a new year has brought about a new engine room, one which put in an improved showing though, as England showed later, still has more work to do.

have tried 12 players in the number four to seven slots since the start of 2017 with only Marcus Stoinis and Travis Head generating the numbers warranting perseverance with. The limited success is a big reason why the reigning world champions had won only one of their past eight completed matches. Change was inevitable. And on Sunday selectors, who have enjoyed a stellar summer, had another reason to be pleased with their work though the result was still the same. They watched Mitchell Marsh, a man in whom they have invested heavily, take another small step on the road to becoming a mainstay in the international game.

And they would also have nodded approvingly of Tim Paine’s return to the 50-over side, months after his shock Test recall.

Selectors have been guilty of sending mixed messages with Marsh. Twelve months ago when they announced Marsh in their touring party for India, chairman Trevor Hohns described him as a bowling all-rounder.

A few hours later, he came out at No.4 and made a duck, which went some way to vindicating their assessment while also condemning the decision to bat him so high in the order. Marsh, however, is a different batsman now. The acid test is to come in South Africa but there was plenty to like in the Ashes about his remodelled defence. Here, he came to the crease with his team shaky and impressed again. The all-rounder’s 50 off 68 balls left with the platform to springboard to 300 – a score which did not seem likely when he started. He defended when needed and was brutal on junk – just ask Adil Rashid – though needed him to bat into the happy hour.

“That was a tough period when he came in. It could have gone either way pretty quick, and the way that he hung in there and waited for his balls was pretty special,” century-maker Aaron Finch, who was at the other end for much of Marsh’s innings, said.

His next step will be to finish off the job rather than to leave it to someone else. Thankfully for him and , Stoinis delivered, as he has for much of his short international career.

Paine has played his best limited-overs cricket at the top of the order but provided the ideal foil to Stoinis, who set the innings alight with a whirlwind 60 off 40 balls. That Paine and Marsh have started well will give selectors confidence they made the right calls with Glenn Maxwell and Matthew Wade. “It’s about results. Our one-day form has been poor the last 12 months so we needed to change it around and our middle order hasn’t performed,” coach Darren Lehmann said on Offsiders on Sunday. “Glenn, the last 20 games he’s averaged 22, so for us that’s not good enough for a man of his talent.”

Encouragingly for Maxwell, there has not been a line put through his name. Runs will have his name back in the frame. He is too good a player not to be playing for his country.

“We want him to go back, play really well, force his way back into the side and if he does that I’m sure he’ll have a long career for .

“We’re not going to cross him out at all, we think he can play – a man of that talent. As you saw fielding the other night he brings the whole package but he’s still got to be able to perform and perform well.”