Domain Test Series v New Zealand
Double time: Marnus milestone moves him into elite company
Rebuked by his English mentor for missing out on double-centuries, Labuschagne shows he's evolved as his record-breaking feats continue to grow
Andrew Ramsey at the SCG
4 January 2020, 09:30 PM AEST
Marnus Labuschagne has publicly acknowledged the technical tweaks that former England Test batter Matthew Maynard instilled in him during last year's stint in the UK county competition, and which set him on a run-making surge that continues to rack up new records.
But he has also revealed Maynard was a driving (albeit distant) force pushing him onwards to his maiden first-class double-century which he completed in today's third Domain Series Test against New Zealand having squandered previous opportunities to complete the milestone.
In particular, Labuschagne clearly recalls the pointed feedback that Maynard – as coach of Welsh county Glamorgan where the Queenslander spent a brief but productive stint last southern winter – provided in the wake of a county championship fixture against Sussex at Hove last May.
Labuschagne emerged as his team's hero in that game, scoring a then personal-best 182 as Glamorgan salvaged a draw after surrendering a first-innings lead of 234 although he was the second wicket to fall in the first session of the match's final day.
Maynard's assessment of that lapse was succinct, and brutal.
"He said, 'There's only five times in your life that you can make a triple (century), and you just threw it away today – well done'," Labuschagne recounted on Saturday evening, having finally breached the benchmark before being dismissed for 215.
"I was like, 'That's a bit stiff' but he's been great.
"He has sent me a few messages when I threw away a couple of my opportunities to get a double (hundred).
"But as a player, sometimes you don't realise that in the moment because when you're batting, especially on a higher score, you're playing with a bit more freedom instead of realising the opportunity you do have."
The exuberant right-hander almost risked another dressing down from his former mentor on Saturday when, having reached 195, when he flirted with the notion of reaching the fabled milestone with one ambitious strike.
The ball after executing a textbook off-drive to the boundary from the off-spin of NZ's Will Somerville, having bested the 185 he scored against Pakistan in this summers' opening Test, Labuschagne charged down the pitch at Somerville's following delivery.
His aim was seemingly to lift the ball into the crowd, only to be beaten by Somerville who saw him advancing and dragged it down into the pitch.
"I turned it into a slog sweep that just ended up going for one," Labuschagne conceded, sensing a mistake at that juncture would have surely brought another rebuke from Cardiff.
What Labuschagne also did not realise until it was pointed out in the aftermath of his latest batting triumph was the record he had rewritten, eclipsing a couple of the most revered names in the Australia cricket pantheon.
In lifting his aggregate from the five-match home Test season to 837 runs at an average of 119.57 (with four centuries from seven innings thus far), Labuschagne surpassed Neil Harvey to become the most prolific batter in a five-match campaign on home turf.
Harvey's record was set in 1952-53 against South Africa (making their first Test visit to Australia in 20 years) and that, in turn, erased his former teammate Don Bradman's mark of 810 that was established during the 1936-37 Ashes series.
"That's very special, going past a player of that calibre," Labuschagne said after stumps, with NZ 0-63 in reply to Australia's 454, about going past Harvey's benchmark that has stood for more than half a century.
"But when you bat through a game, or a series you don't really have time to stop and reflect on the summer that you've had.
"It has been a very special summer, but I think the real privilege is playing in this team with the camaraderie.
"That's what makes it even more special, because you're not just playing for yourself but you're playing for a team that's really enjoyable to be a part of."
Labuschagne concedes that he's not an avid consumer of cricket history from the pre-digital ages, and while he knows many of the names he's eclipsing with remarkable regularity his special subject is recalling games played in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
"When I was a kid growing up," he adds, as a subtle reminder he's only 25 and having completed his first full year as a Test cricketer.
So there's virtually no chance that he'll be au fait with England's Walter Hammond, the man who still holds the record for the most runs scored in a five-Test series in Australia (905 during the 1928-29 Ashes campaign), and the tenuous bit of shared history the pair share.
Like South Africa-born Labuschagne, Hammond grew up far removed from the nation he would ultimately represent at cricket having spent his early childhood in Hong Kong and Malta where the family followed in line with his father's military career.
It's a record that has stood undaunted for almost 100 years.
But even though the Black Caps made it through the final session at the SCG on Saturday without losing a wicket, and have pledged to bat deep into the match to salvage something from a series they trail 0-2, there is a distinct chance that Labuschagne will bat once more before the Test summer ends.
Which provides him with a chance to find the 69 runs he needs to eclipse Hammond's extraordinary feat, and raise the bar for a five-match series to a height that seems likely to stand for as long as it's remained untouched.
It's another of those opportunities that Maynard would doubtless rail against wasting.
Although if the history that Labuschagne loosely embraces serves as a guide, it might well dangle before him as a once-in-a-lifetime chance.
Domain Test Series v New Zealand
Australia squad: David Warner, Joe Burns, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Matthew Wade, Travis Head, Tim Paine (c, wk), Pat Cummins, Mitch Starc, Nathan Lyon, James Pattinson, Michael Neser, Mitchell Swepson
New Zealand: Todd Astle, Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Matt Henry, Kyle Jamieson, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Glenn Phillips, Jeet Raval, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, BJ Watling, Neil Wagner, Kane Williamson (c)
First Test: Australia won by 296 runs
Second Test: Australia won by 247 runs
Third Test: January 3-7, SCG (Seven, Fox & Kayo)