DURBAN – Mitchell Marsh, by his very nature, is one of the cleanest hitters in the modern game.
His power, in full flow, knows no bounds, and he has become the turbo-charge to the Australian Test engine.
His presence at the crease demoralises weary attacks, as he feasted on Steve Smith and company’s leftovers.
And yet on Friday, Marsh showed the other side to his game. It is a side that makes him even more dangerous as a player, because he has learnt to mix humble bread and water with his meaty blows.
“I have worked extremely hard on my defence. That has given me a lot more confidence to be a lot more patient to pick the right balls,” he explained of the method that took him to an assiduous 96.
His team will tell you that it is worth more than some of his hundreds, given the quality of the attack and the impact it had on the match – and possibly the series.
Marsh paid tribute to his tail, too, because he would have been just another AB de Villiers with a stranded half-century if his men didn’t stay the course with him.
“Over the last six months, this team has developed a really good camaraderie. You could see the way the tail was batting for the team, and we are all batting for each other.
“We knew that on that wicket, 350 was going to be a really good score, and it was really pleasing for the tail to bat the way they did with me,” he saluted.
Of course, he also doffed his baggy green at Mitchell Starc, who added five South African scalps to his lusty 35 with the bat to complete a fine day’s work.
“When it is reversing like it was today, he is the best in the world,” Marsh said matter-of-factly.
As world cricket stands, there is no reasonable argument to that statement. There certainly wasn’t one in Durban on Friday, anyway.
“His last 12 months have been amazing,” Marsh continued.
“What he brings to this team is amazing. The way he bowled today, and the way he has bowled over the past 12 months, you know he is going to have an impact on the game, and teams know that now. He is a great weapon for us.”
In between rushing through South African defences, Starc spent a lot of time down at fine-leg, in the vicinity of Castle Corner.
Even in the sparse crowd of just over 5 000 souls, the Aussie star still found himself confronted by special characters, emboldened by an afternoon’s fill of the mother’s milk found down in that part of Kingsmead.
BOWLED HIM. That's five wickets for Mitchell Starc (5/34). South Africa are all out for 162 & trail by 189 runs, De Villiers 71*. Umpires have also called stumps.#SAvAUS #SunfoilTest pic.twitter.com/KtO4MyA411
And yet, with each falling wicket, the conversation moved from badgering to gushing praise and acknowledgement.
Finally, before the left-armer administered the last rites to the Proteas, the hecklers were asking for selfies to remember their day out with a superstar.
Their beaming smiles were in Starc contrast to the mood of the rest of the Proteas fans who turned up at Kingsmead.