Marnus Labuschagne’s batting coach Neil D’Costa says Australia’s livewire No.3 cannot wait to atone for three consecutive dismissals against Mark Wood and questioned a call for him to open the batting in Tests.
Labuschagne is the leading run-scorer for the series heading into Friday’s final Ashes Test in Hobart, with 286 runs at 47.66.
However, Labuschagne has been dismissed on three consecutive occasions by Wood, England’s spearhead quick, for scores of 1, 28, and 29 across matches in Melbourne and Sydney.
Labuschagne has been so prolific with the willow that this is the first time since his Test cricket career began that he has been dismissed three times in a row for under 30.
There has been a pattern in Labuschagne’s recent run of outs – he has been caught behind the wicket every time.
In Melbourne, Labuschagne was stuck on the crease and nicked a ball outside his off stump to first slip, before edging behind twice to the wicketkeeper in Sydney against the express pace of Wood.
Mark Wood celebrates the wicket of Marnus Labuschagne in Melbourne. Credit:Getty
The average pace of Wood’s three balls that have removed Labuschagne this series were 145 km/h.
Across the series, Wood has figures of 3-17 from 52 balls against Labuschagne.
One of Labuschagne’s closest mentors is D’Costa, the batting guru who worked with Michael Clarke and Phillip Hughes before and during their international careers.
D’Costa doesn’t believe Labuschagne has a technical flaw, despite averaging 5.67 against Wood, and says the pair have worked hard – from a distance – to combat the speedster.
“Wood is bowling fantastic and troubling right-handers in particular with that angle in and [getting the ball to cut] away,” D’Costa told the Herald. “He’s bowling at great speed. I think right now, guys are loving the challenge of him. Marnus can’t wait to get out there and get on top of it.
“What I’m pleased about is he keeps on taking the challenges. I couldn’t be happier at the moment.
“I think we’ve got to remember that they’re playing in a winning cricket team. You share that load of runs. You won’t always get runs in every single Test.
“The enthusiasm he has playing the game … you’d love to get a bottle of that for everyone.”
Wood has taken eight wickets at 37.63 this series but has had far more success against right-handers.
He averages 19.2 against right-handed batters, compared to 96 when bowling to left-handers in this Australian team across three Tests.
Labuschagne will bat at No.3 in his maiden Hobart Test appearance, despite former Test batter Ed Cowan suggesting this week he might be better suited as an opener for this match, so Australia could squeeze Usman Khawaja in his preferred spot in the middle order after twin tons at the SCG.
“If I was the sole selector, I’d be going to Marnus and saying, ‘mate, you’re opening the batting this week’,” Cowan told the ABC’s Grandstand Cricket podcast. “Usman bats at 4, Head at 5, and all of a sudden you’ve got your best batsmen playing in the Test match.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re opening the batting or batting at No.3. It’s much the same role you are prepared to bat.”
Labuschagne averages 69.36 at first drop from 26 innings. Australian captain Pat Cummins confirmed on Thursday that Khawaja would open the batting in place of Harris.
“I wouldn’t have thought you’d move a guy averaging almost 70 from No.3,” D’Costa said. “You’d then have to find another No.3. You’re now making two changes as opposed to one. I would suggest you would go with the least amount of changes.”
Meanwhile, D’Costa believes the Australian dressing room is a harmonious environment at the moment.
“When new guys come into sides and there are issues, it’s hard to perform,” D’Costa said.
“The fact these guys are walking in and starring speaks volumes for the team and the coaching staff. For a player to feel comfortable and play his game, that’s not easy.
“This team has taken some serious blows. They have now won the [T20] World Cup, played outstanding cricket in the Ashes, brought in blokes from outside and their behaviour has been outstanding. I think they have been very humble when they are winning. They aren’t in the Poms’ face.
“I think they’ve got a very good vibe in that team at the moment.”
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