How Marnus Labuschagne became the first-ever concussion substitute, and made the decision count
Steve Smith’s return to Test cricket post the 12-month ban has been astonishing. The comeback has seen him score two back-to-back centuries followed by a fighting 92 against England in the ongoing Ashes series.
Smith returned to Test cricket at Edgbaston, to be a part of the first Ashes Test against the famed rival. His return was accompanied by constant boos from a hostile England crowd, who were determined to make life difficult for the trio of Smith, Cameron Bancroft and David Warner.
However, the former Australia captain decided to silence the haters with his bat, scoring consecutive hundreds to conquer the Edgbaston fort - a ground where the Aussies did not win in close to two decades.
In the second Ashes Test, Smith again turned out to be the savior for his side. In reply to England’s first innings total of 258, Australia were struggling again after losing a flurry of early wickets. Smith, finding himself in a familiar situation, dug deep to carry the innings forward and reduce the margin to the smallest possible number.
Smith was batting on 80 when debutant Jofra Archer, who is known for his express pace and accuracy, struck him with a bouncer on his neck. The very next moment, the former Aussie skipper fell on the ground head-on, sparking ugly memories of a similar incident that happened a few years back to another Aussie cricketer.
Smith was immediately examined by the team doctors and physios and had to retire hurt unwillingly for further concussion tests.
The fact that Smith walked back to the pavilion on his feet made everyone heave a sigh of relief, and he received a rousing applause as he made his way into the famous Lord’s dressing room. Smith later returned after the fall of the next Aussie wicket and contributed another 12 runs before being dismissed for a valiant 92.
Smith ruled out as Marnus Labuschagne substitutes him
The ICC has introduced a new rule for concussion-related injuries, allowing a concussed player to be substituted by another player of similar cricketing abilities. The rule further allows the substitute player to take full part in the rest of the game, which means that the player can bat / bowl apart from the usual fielding duties.
South African born Marnus Labuschagne, who has played six Tests for Australia so far, thus became the first-ever player in international cricket to serve as a replacement for a player suffering a concussion-related injuries. That also made Australia the first country to use ICC's new rule.
With the rain-curtailed second Ashes Test heading towards a riveting finish, Labuschagne then fully justified the move to bring him in. He struck a vital 59 in the second innings to help Australia cling on for a draw while chasing a stiff target of 267.
Labuschagne had big boots to fill, since the man he was replacing had been the difference between the sides up to that point. As it turned out, he himself turned out to be the difference between an England win and a draw.
Also read – Ashes Venues