Most of the focus this week has been on the impending announcement of Australia’s World Cup squad, but Test incumbent Marnus Labuschagne quietly gave his Ashes hopes a huge boost on Thursday by scoring a century on debut for UK county side Glamorgan.
Labuschagne was signed by the Welsh county just last month as a replacement for fellow Aussie Shaun Marsh and scored 121 in his first match against the English Dukes ball as his side scored a monster 4-433 on the opening day of their match against Northamptonshire.
While Glamorgan’s score, their equal second-highest on the first day of a match in their history, indicates the pitch at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff was perfect for batting, Labuschagne said he didn’t have it all his own way.
“Early on it definitely nipped a little bit and the first new ball swung consistently for 40 overs,” he said.
“But it was one of those wickets where you just wanted to keep doing the basics really well. You knew if you did that well, you put yourself in good stead to make a big one.”
Labuschagne was unable to solidify his spot in the five Tests he played last summer, but he is an incumbent member of Australia’s top six having played in February’s Canberra Test against Sri Lanka alongside Marcus Harris, Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja, Travis Head and Kurtis Patterson.
He’s one of a handful of Ashes hopefuls looking to push their name forward early in the county season, alongside new Durham captain Cameron Bancroft (who made 33 on debut for his new county), Labuschagne’s Queensland teammate Matthew Renshaw (who made 36 for Kent on Thursday) and Victoria’s Glenn Maxwell, who is expected to bat on the second day of Lancashire’s match against Middlesex at Lord’s. Incumbent Test opener Burns will also make his Lancashire debut next month.
The imminent returns of Steve Smith and David Warner for the Ashes will make it difficult for Labuschagne to hold onto his Test spot, while the likes of Will Pucovski, Matthew Wade and Bancroft are also looking to force their way into the Test side.
But for Labuschagne, he couldn’t have wished for a better opening to what he hopes will be a successful English summer.
"It's the perfect start,” he said. “As an overseas (player), you come over here with a bit of expectation and it was good to focus and stick to my processes. It was great to score a hundred for Glamorgan.”
Labuschagne averaged just 26 with the bat from five Tests last summer, but he did win the support of former Test skipper Ricky Ponting, who backed the Queenslander to play in his first Ashes series.
“I really liked what I got to see from Marnus, his technique looked good,” Ponting told cricket.com.au during the SCG Test against India.
"He plays in Brisbane so he handles the swinging ball well, which you sort of expect over in England. So I'd pick him on the back of what I've seen today.”
Labuschagne’s ability to bowl leg-spin – he has nine wickets at 27 in his five Tests – will also be looked upon favourably by Australia’s selectors, especially given fellow allrounders Mitchell Marsh and the uncapped Marcus Stoinis are far from certain selections for the Ashes.
Qantas Ashes Tour of the UK 2019
Tour match: Australia v Australia A, Hampshire, July 23-26
First Test: August 1-5 at Edgbaston, Birmingham
Tour match: Australia v Worcestershire August 7-9
Second Test: August 14-18 at Lord's, London
Third Test: August 22-26 at Headingley, Leeds
Tour match: Australia v Derbyshire, August 29-31
Fourth Test: September 4-8 at Old Trafford, Manchester
Fifth Test: September 12-16 at The Oval, London