ANI Photo | “Rare that Marnus, Smith miss out in same Test match”: Australian coach McDonald

Australian head coach Andrew McDonald said that though star batters Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne rarely miss out on big scores in a same Test, his team’s victory without them performing at the highest level is “always a positive,” reported ESPNCricinfo on Thursday.
Most of Australian players would like some days of rest before the second Ashes Test but that may not be the case with two of the side’s most consistent batters. Australia won the first Ashes Test without much contribution from this prolific pair as they could score only 35 runs among them.
It is a potentially daunting prospect for England, regretting that they let the match slip away while also managing to keep Smith and Labuschagne quiet.
“It is very rare that Marn and Smudge miss out in the same Test match. It is an appetising thought,” said McDonald as quoted by ESPNCricinfo.
“They will be no doubt a craving for more net sessions from Marn and Smudge. They are disappointed they missed out in this game, but I think any time the Australian cricket team can win without those two performing at a high level is always a positive. We have got some areas we can improve, there is some growth within the team and there are two obvious ones,” he added.
Smith scored a mammoth 774 runs in the 2019 Ashes series in England. But in the last match, he could manage only 16 and six runs in both innings, falling to Ben Stokes and Stuart Broad respectively.
The most intriguing dismissals were perhaps that of Labuschagne. He first edged Stuart Broad’s outswinger in the first innings as he pushed well away from his body for a golden duck. Then in the second innings, after briefly attacking Moeen Ali with some reverse sweeps, he once again nicked a Broad’s delivery. He could manage scores of 0 and 13 in both innings.
Due to these two low scores, Labuschagne lost his number 1 Test batting ranking to England’s Joe Root, who scored 118* and 46 respectively. Labuschagne has managed only two half-centuries in his last 17 innings in the longer format. His batting average has also come down from 60.82 to 55.14.
Labuschagne’s home and away averages are also contrasting. While he averages 70.50 in Australia with nine centuries and nine fifties, he has a 37.13 average in away Tests, with only one century and six fifties.
It is not like Labuschagne lacks experience in English conditions, since he has played plenty of County Cricket here for Glamorgan, with an average of 55.52 in 26 appearances. He also made four half-centuries in the 2019 Ashes after being Smith’s concussion sub at the Lord’s.
His match-up with Broad is now one of the most fascinating duels of this series. Given the amount of hunger for runs, work he puts into his batting, Labuschagne will no doubt leave no stone unturned to come back strongly in the second Test. The same applies for Smith too, who came into the first Test after a match-winning century against India in the ICC World Test Championship final at The Oval.
Usman Khawaja, the southpaw who earned the ‘Player of the Match’ for his knocks of 141 and 67 at Edgbaston, had very little doubts about the duo’s comeback in the second Test, saying that he genuinely expects Labuschagne to score a hundred.
“I genuinely just expect [Labuschagne] to score a hundred next game. We had potentially our two best batters not score runs this game. It is very unlikely, does not happen very often. In my opinion, the greatest batter of my era in Test cricket, Steve Smith, not very often he misses out twice. We have still got four Ashes Tests. Might be a good thing for us, they have some runs in the bank,” said Khawaja.
The coaching staff will be there to help, though McDonald backs them to figure out solutions to their problems.
“I think there is always a curiosity to get better, so we are not going to stall that in any way. They will come up with different plans, different movements,” said McDonald.
“They have seen what England are going to do and how they are going to attack them, and they are probably two of the greatest problem-solvers we have had over a period of time so you would expect them to go back to the drawing board.”
“[Batting coach] Michael Di Venuto will be part of that process. They will come out pretty clear what they need to do next innings. But there is no issue there,” he concluded.
Australia will start off preparations for the Lord’s Test on Saturday. (ANI)

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