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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 December, 2004, 09:21 GMT
Martyn proves point in year of plenty
By Oliver Brett

Martyn after scoring a vital century to help win the Nagpur Test
Martyn after scoring a vital century to help win the Nagpur Test

As Australia reflect on a marathon year of Test cricket - 14 matches in three countries yielding 10 wins - the man who bats at number four can be very proud of his achievements.

Damien Martyn racked up six centuries for an aggregate of 1,353 runs in 26 innings during the course of 2004.

It was not quite the best haul by an Australian - Justin Langer pipped him by 128 runs.

But whenever Langer did fail, and if there was ever a mid-innings wobble, it was invariably Martyn who bailed them out.

When the Western Australian, now aged 33, struck 133 against South Africa in Johannesburg in February 2002, he looked poised to become one of the very best.

The virtuosity of his younger years had been curbed and his defence was more solid.

But he still batted with an old-fashioned panache that at that point had brought him three centuries and a fifty from his last four Tests.

Nineteen Test matches followed without even one score in treble figures, but there were plenty of attractive and usually important half-centuries along the way.

Sometimes he has earned criticism for his place in the side, particularly in one-day internationals.

By way of example, Martyn's year began with an unsavoury incident in the VB Series, where he directed an obscene gesture to a camera during a worrying form slump.

Australia won the tournament easily enough, and with an average in excess of 40 in ODIs - not to mention a thrilling 88 not out in the 2003 World Cup final when batting with a broken finger - Martyn's point was easy to see.

Martyn left a visible impression on cricket observers in 2004

The Australian public, who must sometimes be almost bored by sporting success, have to find someone to blame occasionally, and so it happened that Martyn was getting the stick after looking a trifle ordinary at that particular time.

He had experienced mental turmoil before, however.

Thrust into the Test team at the tender age of 21, he lasted only 13 months before being banished to the wilderness for four years after playing a rash shot in a defeat to South Africa in 1994.

He then struggled for a while in the WA side before record scoring feats for WA in 1998 yielded a return to the one-day team.

A permanent place in the Test XI proved more elusive, however, until Australia selected their side for the first Ashes Test against England in 2001.

Martyn was picked and under huge pressure - this was at a time when Justin Langer was on the sidelines - he scored a century and never looked back.

Pressure bore heavily on Martyn early this year when Australia set off for the awkward tours of Sri Lanka and India minus the recently-retired Steve Waugh.

Somebody needed to pick up the slack in the middle-order and Martyn shone wherever he went.

The runs flowed for him on slow wickets in the subcontinent - not a traditional hunting ground for a batsman brought up on the bouncy, fast surfaces in Perth.

And he also struck gold in the home Tests against Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Pakistan.

With Ricky Ponting not having the best of years, Darren Lehmann inconsistent and Matthew Hayden not at his rollicking best, this has been a year to remember for Martyn.

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