When life gave 25-year old Marnus Labuschagne an opportunity, he was ready for it. Perhaps it was luck that gave him the opportunity, but he was ready for it. Ready even if it was in the most unexpected of circumstances.
He came into bat on the fifth day of a test match, not knowing until a few hours back that his part in the match would be way more significant than supplying drinks when needed.
He came into bat in such a situation, and had to face a bowler who was throwing grenades on the batsmen. He gets hit on the helmet on the second ball, but gets up and faces the next ball as if nothing has happened, and goes on to score a half century.
When Labuschagne was told he was like-for-like to Steve Smith, it must have been an overwhelming feeling. Not that he was literally a Steve Smith, but at least he would be playing a test match he was supposed to sit out.
That he would play an innings which would eventually turn out to be a match saving one, was unimaginable for a man not in the playing XI.
“Marnus came in tonight and batted as well as anyone in the Test match in I think, the hardest conditions in the Test match,” captain Tim Paine had to say of him.
“It was dark, it was spinning, it was fast, it was moving around a bit, and I thought he handled it as well as anyone in the whole Test.”
It was indeed fast. According to Cricviz, Archer had hit the body or helmet of a batsman 19 times in international career, a career which is not even four months old. Ask each of those batsman, how fast it was. To top that, the pitch was deteriorating. Leach was getting assistance.
— Duncan McKenzie-McHarg (@duncanmcmc) August 18, 2019
For all those who were disappointed over not witnessing the Smith vs Archer show, would have got full value if they were watching Labuschagne vs Archer. Labuschagne was asked to fill the boots of statistically the best after Don Bradman, and he did it ever so admirably for a guy so early in his career.
“Marnus played, I thought, superbly, for a guy in probably in his third or fourth Test,” his captain said. (He was) hit hard in the face the second ball. I thought he showed great character, great skill and really good technique. Yeah, we know Marnus is a quality player, and he’s getting better all the time. So I am happy with the way he played.”