It’s a fair bet Damien Martyn had mixed feelings amid the euphoria that surrounded Australia’s thrilling six-wicket win last night after he again failed in the heat of a tense run chase.
Try as he might, and despite a stellar One Day and Test career for Australia, Martyn has never fully lived down “that shot” he played in the tense loss to South Africa in Sydney in 1994/95.
Which is probably massively unfair for a bloke who, among other great feats, only five Tests ago guided Australia to a two-wicket win over South Africa in Johannesburg when his team was chasing almost 300 in the last innings of an enthralling Test match.
But when it comes to naming next week’s squad for the third Test, there is logically only one man who will be feeling a little nervous about keeping his spot in the team. In three innings so far this series, Martyn has accrued scores of 29, 11 and 5.
The impetuous shot that brought about his dismissal yesterday contrasts starkly with the mature knock of Michael Clarke, who played just the type of innings required in the circumstances, with Australia needing to score at a rate of never more than five an over for the entire innings.
The obvious key to Martyn’s short-term survival will be how Shane Watson has recovered from the hamstring twinge he suffered on the eve of the first Test. If he is fit, the selectors may feel the team could do with an extra paceman on a deck where Shane Warne has traditionally struggled and WACA curator Cameron Sutherland has described as a “reasonably traditional” Perth strip.
On the other hand, the thinking might be that the team needs six genuine batsmen against a pace battery that, given the extra rest between the second and third Tests, has the potential to create havoc on a more forgiving wicket than the one which greeted bowlers for the most part of this Test.
As much as his own form has been a worry, playing on Martyn’s mind will also be the fact that skipper Ricky Ponting decided to bat Mike Hussey at number four ahead of Martyn when Australia was facing a potentially game-killing scoreline of 2-33 early in the 168-run chase. It must be hard to have confidence in your ability to bat your way out of a mini-slump when your captain feels the need to shuffle you out of your customary batting position.
Martyn probably deserves the chance to turn his form around in front of his home crowd, however he’d want to score heavily if he is to have any chance of making it to the Boxing Day Test.
But with Clarke undoubtedly cementing his place in the team after three assured stints at the crease this summer, and the selectors’ hearts seemingly set on getting an all-rounder into the team, it might be that the decision on Martyn’s long-term future might be sealed regardless of how many runs he makes in Perth.