Test star Marnus Labuschagne described his unbeaten Sheffield Shield final century as one of the finest innings of his career as Queensland took another huge step towards domestic glory at Allan Border Field on Friday.
If paceman Michael Neser was the Bulls’ day one hero with a five-wicket haul, Labuschagne was Queensland’s second-day dynamo with a majestic knock of 160 not out to guide the hosts to 3-286 at stumps.
With seven wickets in hand and already leading by 143 runs, the Bulls have one hand on the Shield silverware.
“There’s so much time left in the game,” Labuschagne said.
“We’ve still got heaps of batting left to come, For us it’s just about making sure we get that lead as high as we possibly can.
“We would love a 250-300 lead but we’ve got to make sure we earn it and really grind hard.”
Labuschagne is more than up for the grind, with his confidence sky high after one of the best days of his batting career.
“The way I played, my tempo today was better than I feel like it’s ever been,” he said.
“I didn’t get greedy, I took the runs that were on offer, I really played to my game.
“I’m not going to say (it was my) best ever (innings), but it’s up there with one of the better ones I’ve played.”
Labuschagne’s century was his eighth Sheffield Shield ton, and his third against the Blues’ much-vaunted bowling attack this season.
“Their bowling line up is amazing so I always love playing against then when they’re fit and firing, and I always want to score runs against the best teams,” he said.
A #SheffieldShield Final hundred for @marnus3cricket and his third against NSW this summer! 🙌
🏆 | #MaroonGrownpic.twitter.com/yWH6ghFiCi
Despite Labuschagne’s praise, the Blues’s Test trio of bowlers – Mitchell Starc (1-32), Josh Hazlewood (1-35) and Nathan Lyon (1-87) – weren’t at their “amazing” best.
Off-spinner Lyon said Labuschagne had been “exceptional”.
“I love him to death so hopefully he does it next year (for Australia) against the Poms,” Lyon said.
“It’s just great competing against someone like that, He doesn’t give you a sniff, he’s very talented … I’ve got nothing but praise for Marnus.”
Labuschagne and patient opener Bryce Street combined for a 127-run second-wicket partnership to further take the game away from the visitors, who had hoped for a better start to day two after they were bowled out for just 143 on Thursday.
Street, who was dropped on 27 by Blues captain Kurtis Patterson off the bowling of Lyon, was finally dismissed after lunch for a stoic 46 off 203 balls.
Lyon got the wicket, with Street edging the ball to Trent Copeland at first slip to leave the Bulls at 2-153 in the 69th over.
Labuschagne and Queensland captain Usman Khawaja then progressed the total to 213 before Khawaja was caught down the leg side by wicket-keeper Baxter Holt off the bowling Starc for 23.
Khawaja’s dismissal brought former Test opener Matt Renshaw (29 not out) to the crease, with he and Labuschagne poised to inflict further pain on the Blues on Saturday.
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