Marnus Labuschagne has credited his experience on The Gabba deck for his opening-day century in Perth, revealing the similarities between the two grounds helped him start the series against West Indies in style.
As he so often does, Labuschagne came out of the blocks with a big score against a new opponent at Test level, reaching triple-figures and finishing on 154* following the first day at Optus Stadium.
The 28-year-old was well-supported by Usman Khawaja (65) and Steve Smith (59*) against the Windies, while opener David Warner fell cheaply after chopping on for a single-figure score.
Labuschagne started slowly in his innings, but managed to build pressure after the two major breaks, pointing to his experience playing on a similar wicket in Brisbane for his measured approach.
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“I love this venue – I love playing in Perth because the conditions are so similar to Brisbane…it’s really nice to be able to come to a ground where the characteristics of the wicket are very similar,” he said.
“Growing up and playing a lot on The Gabba really helps with that, because you know there is light at the end of the tunnel and you know you’ve got to put in the hard work early.
“Playing in Brisbane with the bouncy conditions certainly helps – you just let the ball go, you understand the game, the tempo isn’t as fast as other venues and you’re not hitting as many balls.
“All those things really helped and obviously to be able to then come out after lunch and after tea and put the pressure on, they tried to amend their shorter length and bowled a bit fuller, which created more scoring options for us.”
Labuschagne’s century was the eighth of his Test career, and there is certainly plenty more runs ahead of him if he can get through the opening stages on day two.
And the importance of starting a series well isn’t lost on the No.3 batsman, who has consistently impressed in the early stages of his time playing against Pakistan, New Zealand and England.
“In any format…the ability to start your series well and just try and be as disciplined as you can and getting runs in that first one or two games, just changes the whole dynamic,” Labuschagne said.
“It gives you confidence, it gives you that ability to trust your game, you are really in-tune with your process and understand how you are playing.
“I always try to make it a really concerted focus on every game, but specifically that first game of the series.”
Labuschagne was able to spend plenty of time in the middle of the Perth ground with Queensland teammate Usman Khawaja, who batted beautifully before nicking off to a peach of a delivery from Kyle Mayers.
The right-hander believes the last 12 months of the veteran’s career have been the best of his career, and his tempo in the middle is the perfect balance for Labuschagne’s own game.
“I think one thing that is so good with Uz, and one thing that I’ve really learned from him, is his tempo,” he said.
“He’s got such an even tempo through his whole game. Sometimes with me, I’m sort of a bit more of a rollercoaster – but that’s one thing I really enjoy with him and that’s why I think opening suits him so much.
“He really read the games well and he is an amazing player – his last 12 months especially, but his whole career, he has always been beautiful to watch”
Steve Smith also started his red-ball summer in strong form, despite having an extremely limited lead-up due to the T20 World Cup and ODI series against England.
Labuschagne said the changes in Smith’s technique and grip are making a huge difference in his performances, and was revelling at the opportunity to spend time in the middle with his good mate.
“I think we use each other really well at training and in the middle, just as bouncing boards,” he said.
“It’s like that in any partnership, but I think with me and Steve there’s a little bit more technical stuff as well, because we talk a lot about batting.
“It has been well-documented about his grip and how it feels. I think he is still [figuring it out] with his grip – sometimes it doesn’t feel good for him and I think that’s what he will signal sometimes when he shanks one or mishits one.
“I think that’s just him trying to find that perfect spot for his hands on the bat.
“I don’t think it really matters how Steve Smith bats, he’s going to find a way to score runs.”