Marnus Labuschagne: “Someone is better at putting puzzle pieces together.” – LSB

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With the bat, he has made 304 runs at a strike rate of 75.62. It raised the question of whether this made sense, especially since Australia had another anchor, Steven Smith, who they wanted in the starting XI.

As it turned out, Australia kept their faith, and Labuschagne delivered the final over with an innings tailored to the situation, an unbeaten 58 off 110 balls, to help bring Australia home.

It was tailor-made for him to stand alongside Travis Head, who had built a strong platform on his way to a century of barnstorming. The target was only 241. Labuschagne was out at 47 for 3. He later said he did not need any clarification on how to handle the matter. By the time their 192-run stand ended with the head still deep, the cup was just two rounds away.

“I was very nervous waiting to bat,” Labuschagne told reporters afterward. “But when you get on the field, nothing really changes. You’re watching the ball, just trying to get into the zone, trying to focus, and the noise is kind of blocked out, and you get to the perimeter, but it was a little bit of pressure there, but it was good.

“My thought process was to treat it like a Test match. When you bat with Travis Head, there’s usually no pressure in the run rate. When you’re chasing a lower total like 230 [241]Unless you’re really struggling, there won’t be much pressure on your run rate. It was just about being nice and positive, but also closing the ball like I was playing a Test match, just making sure I was defending the ball well and when they bowled a bad ball, they scored it. Just make sure you’re building a partnership with your partner there.”

Labuschagne showed off his World Cup medal as he spoke. Before speaking to us – when Pat Cummins was speaking to the media – Labuschagne was standing in the corner of the room, taking selfies as he tried out some different poses while holding his medal, laughing to himself the whole time.

Perhaps there was an awareness of how things can change when you least expect them. Labuschagne was nowhere near Australia’s World Cup squad until two months ago. He was left out of the party for their tour to South Africa, a precursor to their World Cup campaign, after averaging 22.30 at a strike rate of 69.87 in 14 innings before that. But fate had something else in store.

As he prepared to play for Australia A against the touring New Zealand A team in Brisbane, he was recalled to South Africa as batting cover for Smith after an injury scare (carpal tendon). At the time, it was seen as nothing more than a trip to his home country, except for his mother, Alta, who was expecting Labuschagne to play the series opener in Bloemfontein. Maybe it was just a mother’s instinct, but it was prophetic.

Labuschagne came on as a concussion replacement for Cameron Green in the first ODI and finished on 80 not out to seal a tense three-wicket win. It was similar to the Ashes Test at Lord’s in 2019, when he walked out to bat after Smith suffered concussion, then poised to face a fast-paced, furious attack like he had never experienced before.

“It’s hard for me not to believe in miracles,” he said. “Someone is putting the pieces of the puzzle together. I think unofficially I was left out five times. I didn’t make the team in South Africa, someone had a concussion, I got a chance, did some running and supported my case. Then I joined… The team played 19 consecutive matches, since the first South African match. I am very grateful to the coaches and players who chose the team to support me. There are some really good players. Marcus Stoinis missed this match. “He’s an exceptional player. I’m very grateful they stuck with me and I got lucky.”

Labuschagne admitted that while his overall production was far from satisfactory, there were shades of form at the net. When he saw the surface for the final — the black soil surface that ended up helping with the slow rotation — he knew he was right up his alley. It also helped that the slightly larger dimensions of the ground in Ahmedabad suited him, in terms of being able to hit the ball into open spaces for runs.

“I didn’t take any hits against Bangladesh, I missed a few matches to bat, but I felt from the start of the South Africa tour, I was batting really well. Some of the scenarios I got into were difficult during this World Cup,” Labuschagne said. Trailing by three and four goals early, trying to overcome those scenarios was tough. That contributed a bit to my demise.” “Sometimes, I didn’t score as quickly as I wanted to but the most important thing is to win games and today was a great example of absorbing that pressure and making sure I was there in the end.

“I wasn’t going to give anything up at the end. They could have brought all the players around me, inside the circle, I still would have blocked it and made sure I didn’t get out now.”

With victory looming, Labuschagne derived satisfaction from silencing the home fans. He touched on how helpful it was to draw on past experience – having played a Test match here earlier in the year – in trying to cut through the noise.

“The sound of silence is a great sound in India because it means you are at the top,” he said. “When me and Travis were batting, we were discussing making sure we get here, all calm, just keep playing. We played two different styles, he played an unbelievable innings, but it was about keeping the interaction on every ball, playing every ball. On merit and keep the masses away from it.”

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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