Australia vs Pakistan 2019: The rise of Marnus Labuschagne
2019 has been an incredible year for the 25-year-old Marnus Labuschagne. The Australian No. 3 batsman has scored the highest number of Test runs in 2019 i.e. 829 in 13 innings, at an impressive average of 63.76.
Labuschagne replaced Steve Smith as a concussion substitute in the second Ashes Test of 2019 at Lord's, and he has not looked back since. In nine Test innings since then, Labuschagne has scored 700 runs with two centuries and four half-centuries at an average of 77.78. He has cemented the No. 3 position in the Australian Test team and made it his own.
Labuschagne seems to be the prefect Test batsman who loves to spend time on the crease. He scored four consecutive half-centuries against England in the 2019 Ashes and has now scored two big hundreds against Pakistan.
He is ready to play the waiting game when the ball is hard and new but once he gets his eye in, he is a very difficult batsman to bowl to.
With David Warner and Smith back in the Australian Test team after serving their respective bans, the addition of Labuschagne has been a welcome change. In Warner, Labuschagne and Smith, Australia have three batsmen who have the ability to score big runs consistently and occupy the crease for long periods to tire out the opposition bowlers.
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Before Labuschagne started scoring consistently with the bat, he made a name for himself as a bowler. In 2018 he picked up seven wickets against Pakistan in a two-match Test series with his canny leg-spin.
Labuschagne got the vital wickets of Asad Shafiq (twice), Sarfaraz Ahmed (twice), Haris Sohail, Fakhar Zaman and Bilal Asif. He had an impressive average of 22.43 in the series, giving ample evidence that he's got some serious skills with the ball in hand.
Since then, he has worked hard on his batting while his bowling has taken a bit of a back-seat. But Australia will not complain; Labuschagne seems to be following in the footsteps of Smith, who made his debut for Australia as a leg-spinner and at present is the No. 1 Test batsman in the world.
Labuschagne is a batting all-rounder, and it will be interesting to see if he bowls regularly in Test cricket or just be used a part-time bowling option by skipper Tim Paine.
If he works hard on his bowling along with this batting, he can be a real asset in the team - particularly in subcontinent conditions, where Australia have struggled in the recent past.
The 25-year-old Labuschagne has shown maturity beyond his years with the bat, and his bowling is a bonus. The Australian Test team is back to winning ways and Labuschagne is one of the reasons for their success - both in the 2019 Ashes and in the current Test series against Pakistan.
Australia are known to identify and groom future captains at an early age. Paine has led the team impressively so far, but has failed to notch up enough runs in the lower order. He averages just 20.25 in his last 14 Test innings, and with Matthew Wade scoring consistently, the selectors may look beyond Paine in the near future.
Over the last three decades or so, the likes of Allan Border, Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Steve Smith were appointed as Test captains after they turned into prolific run-scorers. Labuschagne has the attributes and temperament of leading the Australian Test team, and if he continues scoring runs consistently then he could well be handed the reins soon.
The future is bright for Labuschagne, and he will look to grab every opportunity he gets to make a legacy for himself.