“We’ve certainly showed last game no matter how many you have you’re in the game”
Marnus Labuschagne has admitted that Australia’s top order has been wrestling with the fact that India have turned up for the Test series with multiple highly evolved plans to confound them, after they were bowled out for 195 on Boxing Day to follow up a first innings of just 191 in the first Test in Adelaide.
You have to go back to November 1984, when Australia were being obliterated by West Indies on the way to Kim Hughes’ resignation as captain, for the last time they failed to reach 200 in consecutive first innings; they were bowled out for 76 in Perth and then 175 in Brisbane. That the record would be matched in the season when the Australians had hoped to regain the batting initiative against India after struggling without Steven Smith and David Warner in 2018-19 says much about how India have approached their task, the sporting nature of the pitches at Adelaide Oval and the MCG, but also the profligate nature of some dismissals.
“We had three innocuous dismissals, that we probably didn’t need,” Labuschagne said. “Just three frustrating dismissals, and I think all three of those guys were set and were in. It’s a big job from our batting group, whoever that is on the day – whether that’s myself or anyone else in the top order – that we make sure we get the big scores.
“You just know you’re going to have to lock in and bat for periods of time. They’re bowling really straight lines, you’re not getting many runs through the off side, so this is the art of Test cricket, this is why we all love it. Because it’s a continual challenge for the bowlers to come up with new ideas to stop the batters scoring and build pressure and that’s what they did today.”
Labuschagne, in a 132-ball stay worth 48 runs, has gone close to getting fully established in both Tests, but even he has struggled far more than last summer when Pakistan and New Zealand looked bereft of ways to get past him. At the same time, Smith’s scores of 1 and 0 are his worst-ever first-innings scores to start a Test series.
“There was a little bit more in it, the ball seamed and you even saw the ball swing at the 50th over mark, which is something you probably don’t see usually here at the MCG at that time”
“Something that we’re realising very quickly is people are coming up with new ways, thinking about the game slightly differently,” Labuschagne said. “Obviously today, they came out with a heavy leg-side field and bowled very straight and didn’t give us any scoring options to the off side.
“So for all our batters, you’ve just got to keep rolling with the punches, learning the game, understanding what they’re doing and take that innings to innings. I think that’s the key. As long as we do that as a batting group and learn from that, we’re just going to keep getting better and learning.”
Looking ahead to the rest of the game, Labuschagne placed plenty of store in the Australian side’s bowlers to keep them in the contest, given how much movement was available. “We’re in the game,” Labuschagne said. “We’ve certainly showed last game no matter how many you have you’re in the game. It’s pretty hard for me to make an assessment on the wicket currently, you’re both going to have to bat on the wicket to see how both teams bat.
“There was a little bit more in it, the ball seamed and you even saw the ball swing at the 50th over mark, which is something you probably don’t see usually here at the MCG at that time. We’ve got to make sure we adapt and whatever they get, we get a big score in the second dig.”
As for the blow to the helmet from the swift Mohammed Siraj, Labuschagne said he had not felt any lingering effects. “Not at all,” he said. “I’m very accustomed to getting hit in the head, so just shake it off and move on.”
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig