There is one question on everyone’s lips leading into Thursday’s trans-Tasman opener: can Australia register a win for the good guys by overcoming the Black Caps?
After the vicious bouncer that was bowled to Steven Smith by Jofra Archer, the Australians were not sure that their star batsmen was going to be able to participate in the second Test anymore.
After the doctors confirmed that Steve Smith had a mild concussion, Australia brought in Marnus Labuschagne to substitute in for injured Steve Smith, the first-ever concussion substitution in Test match history.
The previous four days, Labuschagne was sitting comfortably in the Lord’s dressing room, relaxing and enjoying not being worried about much. But on Day 5 it was a different story, which not many – including Marnus – would have expected.
Labuschagne had big boots to fill, Steve Smith had been in scintillating touch with two centuries in the last match and a 92 in the first innings of the second Test as well. Labuschagne had only six Test matches under his belt, and he had the all-important job of batting at #4 for his team in difficult conditions.
On Day 5, Labuschagne came out to bat at 19-2 chasing 267, with Jofra Archer on a roll picking up two early wickets.
The second ball, a vicious Jofra Archer bouncer knocked over Labuschagne. He did not give up, he shook off the pain and carried on battling hard for his country.
Labuschagne played out Jofra Archer and Stuart Broad and stabilised the Australian team after the early strikes by Archer.
The rain-hit Test match went towards an exciting finish, with England in control but Labuschagne scoring an imperative 59 runs to help Australia clinch a draw.
The player that Labuschagne was replacing had been the main difference between the two teams in the series, but the way Marnus batted on Day 5 at Lord’s did not make Australia miss Smith’s presence too much, batting superbly to save the Aussies.
Labuschagne now has a new challenge ahead of him. With doctors confirming that Smith will miss out in the third Test, it is now up to Labuschagne to take responsibility at the #4 position and help Australia take a 2-0 lead at Headingley.