Marnus Labuschagne’s biggest assets with the bat are his temperament, work ethic and perseverance, but he can also get under his opponents’ skins with his constant chatter and all kinds of batting techniques.
This eccentric ex-South African was a fly in the ointment for the English cricket team on Saturday at Old Trafford in Manchester on the rain-interrupted fourth day of the fourth Test match in the Ashes series against Australia.
The English still have the upper hand, as the Aussies (214/5) still need 61 runs in their second innings to avoid an innings defeat after England scored 592 in their first innings and bowled out the Aussies for 317 in their first innings.
Labuschagne came on to bat on 44* after lunchtime on Saturday, when play was interrupted for a long time by rain, with Australia firmly in the mix at 113/4.
Labuschagne, who before the series held the first position on the International Cricket Council’s batting rankings, did not convince in the first three Tests.
But after his 51 runs in the first innings, he followed it up with 111 runs in the second innings. It was his 11th Test century and although in all probability it will not be enough (if it doesn’t rain) to keep England away from victory, Labuschagne frustrated the English badly.
Before play resumed, Labuschagne practiced with five coaches on the field and in the nets to get his eye in.
And after play resumed, much to the consternation of the England fielders, he asked the umpire’s permission to examine the Dukes ball to see if it would swing.
This left the English captain, Ben Stokes, hot under the collar, because it is unheard of in cricket circles.
Words were hurled again and again and were continued later in the media conference.
If the weather holds, England should win the Test, because Australia (214/5) still need 61 runs to avoid an innings defeat.
Mitchell Marsh (31*) and Cameron Green (3*) continue to bat on Sunday afternoon. If the weather holds and the English strike early, only wicketkeeper Alex Carey is left as a recognized batsman to bowl.
If England win, the series is level at 2-2 with the final Test at the Oval remaining.
If the test ends in a draw due to rain, the Aussies lead 2-1 and will retain the Ashes.