Labuschagne's wild ride on historic Lord's day
Tim Paine says it will be 'tough to stop' Steve Smith from playing in the third Test, but Australia have a capable replacement in Marnus Labuschagne
Sam Ferris at Lord's
19 August 2019, 08:26 AM AEST
Marnus Labuschagne travelled to Lord's on Sunday as Australia's reserve middle-order batsman and left the iconic venue having made history and played a major role in preserving his side’s 1-0 Ashes lead.
Labuschagne replaced Steve Smith in Australia's XI early on Sunday morning, becoming the first concussion substitute in the history of Test cricket, after the former captain was diagnosed with a delayed concussion following the nasty knock he copped to the back of his neck from a Jofra Archer thunderbolt on Saturday.
Labuschagne was then called on to bat at No.4 with Australia 2-19 and Archer once again bowling lightning. And from the second ball he faced, Labuschagne was every bit a like-for-like replacement for Smith as he was floored by an Archer bouncer, only this time the ball hit the batsman's grille and not exposed flesh.
Unlike Smith, the 25-year-old was able to bounce back to his feet immediately, pass his own concussion assessment and carry on for another two hours to play an integral part in Australia securing a draw ahead of the third Test in Leeds, starting on Thursday.
Captain Tim Paine joked after play that his side had wanted two players to replace Smith given the 30-year-old’s Test batting average of 63.24 is effectively worth a pair of middle-order batsmen.
But the skipper was more serious when praising the efforts of Labuschagne.
"Marnus played superbly for a guy in probably his third of fourth Test," Paine said after play.
"He got hit hard in the face second ball and I thought he showed great character, great skill and technique.
"We know Marnus is a quality player and he’s getting better all the time. We’re happy with the way he played."
Labuschagne now finds himself as a renter hoping to buy.
Having occupied Smith's spot at No.4 with aplomb, the Queenslander is now the likely replacement for Smith should the former skipper be ruled out of the third Test.
Competing against Labuschagne for Smith's spot is allrounder Mitch Marsh and opener Marcus Harris, the two other recognised batsmen in Australia's squad.
Marsh was a standout performer in the recent Australia A tour but has failed to reach 50 in four red-ball innings during this campaign, although he was cruising on 39 not out when last week’s tour game in Worcester was called off due to rain.
Marsh also provides a steady seam-bowling option should the selectors opt to unleash an all-out express pace attack of Pat Cummins, James Pattinson and Mitch Starc, the latter who is yet to play in the series.
Harris, who had a stellar Sheffield Shield season and played all six Tests last summer, posted a century during the A tour and 67 in his most recent innings against Worcestershire.
While Paine says it will be hard to keep Smith out of the third Test, he’s confident there’s adequate cover in the squad if the former captain is forced to sit out.
"Marnus came in today and batted as well as anyone in the Test match, in I think the hardest conditions of the Test match," Paine said.
"It was dark, it was spinning, it was fast and moving around a bit. I thought handled it as well as anyone in the whole Test.
"We have him up our sleeve, we have Marcus Harris who is coming off 1300 Shield runs who is playing really well and knows exactly what he is doing now and how he goes about his game.
"So (there are options) if Steve wasn't to pull up, but I reckon it will be tough to stop Smithy walking out next week."
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, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes (vc), Chris Woakes.
First Test: Australia beat England by 251 runs at Edgbaston
Second Test: Match drawn at Lord's
Third Test: August 22-26, Headingley
Tour match: Australians v Derbyshire, August 29-31
Fourth Test: September 4-8, Old Trafford
Fifth Test: September 12-16, The Oval