It didn’t come as a great surprise to me that Marnus Labuschagne went on to have a great Australian summer.
As an Australian who’s lived in England for the past 20 years, it’s a source of shame that I’m far more familiar with the old enemy than I am with my own team. But the culprits are the 11-hour time difference and my love of a good night’s sleep.
So when Steve Smith was felled by a sickening Jofra Archer blow to the neck in the second Test of the Ashes, it looked like Australia had lost their best batsman and their only real source of runs, because I had no idea who they had in reserve.
David Warner couldn’t replicate his one-day form of the World Cup, and thanks to Stuart Broad, his series wouldn’t improve. Marcus Harris, Usman Khawaja, Travis Head and Matthew Wade had moments but never the showed the consistency a team needs from their batsmen.
I’d barely heard the name Marnus Labuschagne as he strode to the crease in the second innings at Lord’s as Steve Smith’s concussion substitute. When the second ball he faced smashed into his grill from a ferocious Archer bouncer, my immediate reaction was that surely he’d love nothing more than the opportunity to scarper back to the safety of the pavilion.
The next ball from Archer was going to be a thunderbolt and the only doubt was whether it would be aimed at his body or rattle his stumps.
It’s fair to say I’d misjudged the young man because he bounced back to his feet, stood his ground and looked comfortable at the crease from then on. It was more than mere bravado as he calmly waited for the next delivery and his 59 helped secure a draw for the Aussies in a Test high in drama.
(Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
Labuschagne spent the rest of the series looking like a player who was at his most comfortable while occupying the crease. He rarely played false shots, was tight in defence, knew when to leave balls, was mentally tough and looked every inch a seasoned Test player.
And I was more than willing to forgive his mimicry of Smith’s exaggerated leave given the intense nature of his inclusion into the Test team.
Marnus Labuschagne is a man who loves batting and he shares a quality that most of the greats have: he values his wicket.
He proved to be the consistent perfomer the Aussies craved, and between our bowling unit, Steve Smith and Labuschagne, the Aussies went on to bring the Ashes home for the first time since 2001.
Labuschagne had spent the first half of the English summer at county side Glamorgan and he’d put his time there to good use, amassing an impressive 1114 runs at an average of 61.89 over 18 innings. He’d racked up five centuries and an equal number of 50s for good measure. The Aussie selectors clearly knew they had a talent in reserve.
It was a remarkable call-up for the concussion substitute, who capably handled the tricky English conditions with the Dukes ball under the intense pressure of a closely contested Ashes series. I was impressed and I took it as a good sign that my English wife despised him. I don’t have a problem with that because I’m not a great fan of her favourite player, Ben Stokes, who ruined a perfectly good bank holiday weekend with his last-minute heroics a Headingley.
I’m not surprised Labuschagne scored a bag of runs on his return to Australia. He may not have carved out a century in the Ashes but you could see it was coming. His technique was sound, his temperament was excellent, and on the team’s return to Australia, there was no doubt of his right to fill the number three slot.
The runs that followed over the summer were testimony to a young man that had found himself at the right place at the right time. Getting the call-up was only half the job. Staying there would require more hard work and Labuschagne has put the hard yards in.
Time will tell what Labuschagne goes on to achieve in both the red and white-ball formats, but from what I saw, he has the determination to achieve greater things.
There’s a lot of batting before the next Ashes in England and I look forward to seeing what type of player he is on his return.
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