MELBOURNE (Reuters) – If finding an opening partner for David Warner is Australia’s longest-running drama in test cricket, Marcus Harris has been a recurring character who has never quite nailed the part.
The Victoria batsman has been dropped twice through his 10-test career, failed miserably in the 2019 Ashes in England, and only won his place back against India in January after a succession of injuries.
Against that backdrop, the 29-year-old finds himself thrust into the cauldron of another Ashes series, with the added burden of needing to perform in front of home fans.
His numbers do little to inspire confidence.
Harris has averaged under 24 in tests and a modest 39.76 over a long first-class career.
Yet selectors have done everything they can to ease his entry, anointing him Warner’s partner before the start of Victoria’s Sheffield Shield campaign in late-October.
That meant ignoring the claims of the in-form Usman Khawaja, who boasts a terrific record as an opener but has been relegated to battling Travis Head for a middle order slot.
Harris will also be afforded time in the role, according to selector George Bailey, who hopes that will help the batsman spread his wings.
“It’s good for your confidence as a player to sort of know where you stand and having the (support) of people is really good,” Harris told reporters on Wednesday.
“It puts your mind at ease a little bit. Your mind can run, obviously, coming into a big series like the Ashes with the amount of attention that’s brought to it.”
Harris replaced discarded opener Cameron Bancroft during the 2019 Ashes and averaged 9.66 from his three tests in the drawn series.
Both he and fellow lefthander Warner, who averaged 9.50 in a horror campaign, struggled when Stuart Broad and England’s seamers bowled around the wicket to them.
Harris did not appear in test whites again until the fourth match against India in Brisbane but returned to England this year for a season with county side Leicestershire, where he scored three centuries and averaged 54.58.
“That was really beneficial, I really enjoyed that,” said Harris.
“Obviously, it’s been a ploy that a lot of teams have employed against me now, to come around the wicket and I feel like I’ve worked really hard on the technical side of my game and tactical to try and combat that.”
Being more familiar with Australia’s pitches should help Harris, though that has not meant big runs at test level.
Lacking a century and having only two fifties to his name, Harris has generally proved his own worst enemy by squandering promising starts.
He admitted to being too much of a “dasher” in the past and says he is now more patient.
“I think my initial idea of trying to get through the twenties was to dash as quickly as I could,” he said.
“As I’ve got a bit older and more experienced I let the game and the bowlers come to me a bit more.”
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)