Mitch Marsh belts ton in Ashes tour game

Mitch Marsh heaped further pressure on Shane Watson with an aggressive century in the opening game of Australia’s Ashes tour.

Michael Clarke reshuffled his batting order on day three of the four-day clash with Kent, promoting himself, Watson and Marsh up the order.

Clarke opened alongside Chris Rogers after the visitors rolled Kent for 280 in Canterbury, but fell for 47 as Australia built a lead of 549 runs at stumps.

Watson crafted a score of 81 and it wasn’t as if the temporary first drop played poorly until picking out substitute Sam Weller in the deep.

The 34-year-old’s problem – aside from the niggle that prevented his bowling in this game – is that he was overshadowed by the other allrounder in Australia’s 17-man squad.

Marsh smacked a terrific ton that rocketed the tourists to a total of 4-322 at stumps.

He belted five sixes and 12 fours – all but one of the boundaries coming after tea as the right-hander helped himself to 93 runs off 64 balls.

To put the rampage in perspective, Marsh reached triple figures by scoring 77 runs in the same time Watson managed five.

He was particularly strong on the leg side and retired after the 102-minute masterclass.

Marsh’s maiden century for Australia was against an impotent attack on a lifeless pitch, but nonetheless adds further intrigue to the selection debate.

Watson was dropped during the World Cup to make room for James Faulkner, suggesting a stop-start international career that began in 2002 could be nearing its end.

However, he was recalled the following game at the expense of Marsh and found form with the bat in the one-day tournament.

The duo’s showdown is one of many challenging decisions that national selectors must make before the Ashes start in Cardiff on July 8.

Rogers followed up his first-innings 84 in Canterbury with a knock of 45 on Saturday.

The 37-year-old, who missed the two-Test series against West Indies due to concussion, is expected to reclaim his spot.

Chief selector Rod Marsh and his colleagues could yet stick with incumbent opener Shaun Marsh, who scored 114 on day one.

Marsh’s other conundrum is settling on a pace attack.

Ryan Harris, Australia’s leading wicket-taker in the 2013 Ashes, is no certainty to return given the form of Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood in the Caribbean.

Harris snared two wickets on Saturday, while Mitchell Johnson finished with figures of 4-56 from 18 overs after cranking up the pace on day two.

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