Aus vs Pak 2023-24 – Marnus Labuschagne comes through bruising Perth battle in ‘brutal’ conditions


Cleared of a serious finger injury, Marnus Labuschagne declared himself fit and ready for the Boxing Day Test after Australia’s 360-run series-opening victory over Pakistan on a “brutal” Optus Stadium surface.

Labuschagne was one of a number of Australia batters roughed up in their second innings as the wicket deteriorated on days three and four.

During the sixth over of Australia’s second innings, early in the final session on day three, Labuschagne was whacked on the little finger of his right hand from a rearing delivery by debutant quick Khurram Shahzad that jumped off a length.

He sought medical attention immediately, but resumed batting after several minutes before falling for 2 having made 16 in the first innings.

“The finger is fine, there’s no break. It hit me more on the knuckle side and sort of just jammed up my hand,” Labuschagne said. “It just got me in a bit of an awkward spot. There was no padding on that side of the glove, so it just didn’t feel that good.

“I was a bit nervous. I’ve had a lot of finger blows, but it just felt a bit different. It was a little bit sore overnight.”

Labuschagne spent an hour in the Optus Stadium nets before play on day four where he was tested by quick Lance Morris, who is arguably the fastest bowler in the country and he was part of Australia’s first Test squad.

“It [net session] wasn’t to test the finger out, it was to bat…something I didn’t do enough of in this game,” said Labuschagne, who before this Test had compiled 501 runs at an average of 167 from four previous innings at Optus Stadium.

Usman Khawaja and Steven Smith also received blows to their arms, while allrounder Mitchell Marsh was twice hit on the helmet on day four as Pakistan’s quicks resorted to fiery short-pitched bowling.

“Uz seems fine and Steve is all good,” Labuschagne said. “It was brutal there at the end with the cracks opening up. We’re all used to the bounce, played a lot here and some of us have good records in Perth.

“But no one likes batting when it’s up and down [and] sharp steep bounce on a fast wicket. That’s not your cup of tea, but you just have to find a way when it’s like that.”

Emerging unscathed from the bruising contest, Australia will almost certainly go into the Boxing Day Test unchanged meaning allrounder Cameron Green is set to miss selection once again.

Labuschagne, who has played 39 Tests in a row, believed the MCG wicket – which has livened up in recent seasons after a dull period – would present challenges for the batters.

“The MCG wicket has changed so much over the last four years,” he said. “It’s become probably very much like Adelaide with a bit of seam and swing…quite a bit of grass. Probably will be a little bit of a different challenge to this wicket, which was more bounce.”

While Australia’s batters copped physical punishment, a hapless Pakistan may have mental scarring after crumbling for 89 in their second innings to slide to a 15th straight defeat in Australia.

“I think it is a big advantage when you’re playing a subcontinent team on such a bouncy surface,” Labuschagne said. “It was certainly one of those tough games that you get in Perth.”


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