Marnus Labuschagne gives rise to a new chapter on his return to Australia

Marnus Labuschagne gives rise to a new chapter on his return to Australia

The disappointment after his dismissal in the Brisbane Test very much resembled his fellow countryman Steve Smith's hunger for runs.

Marnus Labuschagne
Marnus Labuschagne. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

The chirpy and the sparkling personality from South Africa made his way back to the Test team post the Melbourne batting debacle against India at the Boxing Day Test. In the Test series in the UAE before their home summer, Marnus Labuschagne cultivated a tiny bit of spark with the bat and ball, but couldn’t ignite the fire.

The Australian team seldom appeared as vulnerable at home as seen during the last summer, especially against India. The Baggy greens, devoid of Steve Smith and David Warner and an under-performing top-order, responded by recalling Labuschagne. The decision looked farcical, for he averaged under 30 with the bat and nearly 60 with the ball in his tenure of two Tests.

The wrist-spinning all-rounder’s addition to the mix seemed more inexplicable since Matthew Wade’s exploits in the Shield cricket was instead overlooked. Handed a stiff task in his first Test in Australia, Marnus idolized his counterpart Cheteshwar Pujara’s style of grinding it out. Sent to bat at number three, the Proteas’ born crafted a knock of 38 – the best anyone could have asked for of a rookie against a skilled bowling unit.

The turning point for Marnus Labuschagne

He flew to England to play county cricket for Glamorgan after getting two more Tests against Sri Lanka under his belt. Perhaps, this is where the turning point ensued. Under coach Matthew Maynard, Labuschagne thrived handsomely in English conditions, averaging 65.53 in ten games with five hundreds. But what earned him an Ashes berth was the stubborn knock 41 on a lethal pitch in Southampton in Australia’s 25-man Ashes trial game.

It happened. Ashes dawned upon him only when he was drafted to the eleven as Smith’s concussion substitute. The first ball that he faced from Archer, hit him right on the button, and that became the point from where he starved to prove his learnings on his stint with Glamorgan. Labuschagne showed the resolve and a strong defence technique against the expertise of Broad and the hostility of Archer, especially when one of the latter’s deliveries kept exceptionally low.

By the time Marnus Labuschagne got dismissed to a sweep shot, he supposedly pulled Australia to safety. But that hunger for runs kept elevating and he was seen as someone, tailor-made for Test match cricket as the series progressed. The South African born notched up three half-centuries after that – two of which came in Leeds and one in Manchester. The significance of the two knocks can barely be articulated into words. However, it got marginally overshadowed by Ben Stokes’ incredible display at Headingley and Steve Smith’s brilliance in both the innings at Old Trafford.

A happy homecoming

Marnus Labuschagne
Marnus Labuschagne. (Photo by Jono Searle/Getty Images)

Coming to the home summer, Labuschagne had been one of the few batsmen from the English tour, who punched his case as a guaranteed starter. On Friday, when he strode out to the middle, Warner and Burns had set a solid platform. The question was whether Australia’s latest number three could justify the slot handed out to him by making a massive score in friendly conditions. He soared well above it by playing every shot in the book that there was and in all directions of the park.

The hard yards in the English county cricket paid off handsomely well. The thing about this knock was based more on his psychological mindset. The base set by the openers combined with Pakistan bowlers getting flattened could have enabled him to latch on to their bowling attack. Instead, he chose to stick to the basics of county cricket that shaped him as the batsman that he became today. Marnus seldom tried to over-hit any delivery and equally relied on taking full advantage of the vast Gabba outfield by hustling for the twos and threes.

When he reached his maiden Test century, it was through a streaky boundary to the third man region. The three-figure score was something that the 25-year old deserved it in one of his many crucial knocks in England. At 185, his remarkable knock came to an end when he spooned a catch to the gully fielder. He stood standstill, not able to digest that he had thrown it all away.

The disappointment very much resembled his fellow countryman Steve Smith’s hunger for runs. Nevertheless, between his first Test innings in Sydney to the hundred in Brisbane, the elegant right-hander has taken lofty strides. From Lord’s to Headingley to Manchester to finally his return down under, Labuschagne has given rise to a new chapter as his national side’s dream prospect.