Labuschagne undeterred by never-seen-before chaos
The Queenslander posted a patient knock of 67 amid conditions he's never experienced before on day one of the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford
Sam Ferris at Old Trafford
5 September 2019, 10:13 AM AEST
Australia No.3 Marnus Labuschagne braved howling winds, arctic temperatures and rogue chip packets to score his fourth-straight Ashes half-century on day one at Old Trafford.
Labuschagne made 67 from 128 balls on a rain-shortened opening day of the fourth Test, where Australia reached 3-170 at stumps having won the toss and elected to bat.
The 25-year-old struck eight fours in more than three hours at the crease in chaotic conditions, with blustery winds constantly dislodging the bails, which were completely removed by the umpires at one stage, and sending debris hurtling across the ground that caused a series of aborted deliveries as the visiting batsmen pulled away with their concentration disturbed.
The repeated delays saw tensions boil in freezing conditions, which Labuschagne admitted he had never experienced.
"It was probably frustrating for everyone, because the one where I pulled away I thought the bails fell off, so I looked back and the bails were still on," Labuschagne said after play.
"Then I had to pull away when the chip packets kept coming past, and the beach ball.
"It was probably just frustrating for the game in general. They're just getting frustrated because we have to pull away because there's stuff there and the bails (falling off).
"When they (the umpires) put the bails on you could just see the stumps shake and it was just a matter of time before they came off.
"It was very windy out there. I've never played a game where you've played with no bails, so that was very different. All in all, it was pretty tough conditions for bowling out there."
Surrounding the interruptions, Labuschagne batted his way to his fourth half-century on the trot against Australia's oldest rival.
When he raised his bat to acknowledge the applause from frozen hands, the Queenslander joined Herbie Collins and Herbert Sutcliffe as batters to score 50 or more in their first four Ashes innings. Champion Australia batsman Mike Hussey holds the record, with five 50-plus scores to start his Ashes career.
Labuschagne's streak started on day five of the second Test at Lord's when he became international cricket's first-ever concussion substitute.
Labuschagne replaced Steve Smith and scored a match-saving 59, before filling the shoes of the former captain in the following Test in Leeds, where he posted 74 in difficult batting conditions on day one.
He backed it up with 80 in Australia's second innings to help the tourists post what should have been a match-winning target if not for missed opportunities and a brilliant knock from England allrounder Ben Stokes.
Of the four innings this campaign, the right-hander said he felt the best in the first innings at Headingley as he adjusted to the volatile elements in Manchester on Wednesday.
"Today the conditions, the wind, it was tough to get used to it and get consistent with your movements because it was so windy and there were so many distractions around the ground," Labuschagne said.
"It doesn't really matter how you get the runs, it’s just about the score.
"It was important for us to dig in and get a first-innings score because there's some spin out there and that's really good for us."
Labuschagne's innings ended when he was bowled by a sharp inswinger from towering quick Craig Overton, who is playing his first Test this series.
Overton let Labuschagne know it was an inswinger that got him having been cut the previous over by a ball the Australian thought swung back in the air.
It was not a send-off by any means from Overton in what has been a tame series on the field by Ashes standards, and Labuschagne could only acknowledge the skill of the bowler when asked about his dismissal.
"It was a nice ball," he said. "It hit the seam and just kept going with the seam.
"He was swinging the ball away most of the time, he bowled a few that angled in and hit the seam.
"It was a good piece of bowling. I need to make sure I'm ready and able to keep those out."
2019 Qantas Ashes Tour of England
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.
England squad: Joe Root (c), Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jack Leach, Craig Overton, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes (vc), Chris Woakes.
First Test: Australia won by 251 runs at Edgbaston
Second Test: Match drawn at Lord's
Third Test: England won by one wicket at Headingley
Fourth Test: September 4-8, Old Trafford
Fifth Test: September 12-16, The Oval