Watching Archer is worse than facing him: Labuschagne
Australia batsman played a key role in Lord's draw after being thrown into the fray against Jofra Archer as Test cricket's first concussion substitute
19 August 2019, 05:04 PM AEST
Duelling with Jofra Archer in the middle of Lord's was less nerve-wracking than watching him from the dressing room balcony, says Test cricket's first ever concussion substitute, Marnus Labuschagne.
Labuschagne said he was left with "a bit of a sick feeling" when Steve Smith was felled by Archer's bouncer, but quickly had an inkling it could see him called into the fray.
The 25-year-old was duly confirmed as the first concussion substitute in Test cricket on the fifth morning of the second Ashes Test when Smith awoke "groggy" and with a headache.
And the right-hander played a key role in Australia securing a draw that preserved their 1-0 series lead with three matches left to play, hitting an important half-century in a 100-ball stay at the crease.
He quickly experienced first-hand what it's like to face the express pace of Archer, with the second ball he faced smashing into the grille of his helmet, prompting an on-field visit from the team doctor.
"Being out there is probably less nerve-wracking than being off the field," Labuschagne said of facing Archer.
"When Smith got hit I had a bit of a sick feeling, you're kind of helpless. But when you're out there, you're in the contest and the adrenaline is rushing … pretty much all you're doing is trying to watch that ball.
"It got me flush but it was just 'get up and get on with it'. It got me quite flush in the grille so it took most of the blow. You get up and try and act cool.
"Then it was just about trying to refocus and make sure you're watching that ball again. I watched that one pretty close.
"I think what it does do is it makes you 'on'. It means there is no mucking around.
"You're watching the ball and you're trying to work as hard as you can to see that ball as early as you can.
"That's the benefit of facing someone that fast in your first few balls."
He said while Archer "adds another dimension to England's attack", the Australian batters were up for the challenge.
"We were all up and ready to go, we wanted to get into the challenge, into the contest," Labuschagne said.
"He bowled really well at times, his length was really good and obviously he tested us with the short stuff on this up-and-down wicket, so we need to make sure we're ready and we will be."
Labuschagne said he quickly began preparing to play a role as a concussion substitute when Smith was forced to retire hurt on day four.
"When it happened you sort of kind of put the pieces together and go, 'well if this does unfold and he's not all right then I'm potentially the like-for-like'," Labuschagne said.
"But it was (Sunday) morning, we were actually having a training session facing (non-playing quicks Mitchell) Starc and Patto (James Pattinson) and Nes (Michael Neser) in the nets. I was batting there for a bit and Painey (Australia captain Tim Paine) walked down and he kind of looked at me and said 'you're in mate'.
"I was like 'righto'. I still finished my net, had a few more balls and then walked out and said 'righto, now it's time to focus and get your mind right'.
"It was unbelievable actually to get to play at Lord's, although in strange circumstances. It was still a privilege and an honour."
Labuschagne can now add 'first Test concussion sub' to his growing list of cricket trivia titles that also includes the first player to be penalised for 'fake fielding' and his claim to be the first sub-fielder to take a catch at short leg.
That last incident, against India at the Gabba in December 2014, saw him become a social media sensation when a video of him practicing his short-leg catching in the kitchen went viral.
Labuschagne has come a long way in the intervening years to earn a Baggy Green and could find himself named in the first-choice XI for Thursday's third Ashes Test if Smith is ruled out of the game.
"From my perspective, you're just preparing and getting ready to play," Labuschagne said. "Because the other alternative is you're just not (prepared)."
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), Moeen Ali, Jimmy Anderson, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes (vc), Olly Stone, 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