Marnus Labuschagne has reaffirmed his standing as one of Australia’s best and most important batters with a consummate century on the first day of the men’s Test summer against the West Indies.
Australia ended day one at Perth Stadium 2-292 thanks mostly to Marnus Labuschagne’s unbeaten 154, although he had plenty of help in century partnerships with Usman Khawaja (65) and Steve Smith (59 not out).
The scene at stumps was a far cry from the way the tourists started the day, nabbing the prize scalp of David Warner (5) in just the fourth over after Pat Cummins won the toss and chose to bat on a green-tinged pitch.
That early breakthrough united Australia’s leading run-scorer for 2022, Khawaja, with his Queensland state teammate, Labuschagne, and they set about rebuilding the innings.
In front of mostly empty stands, with just 10,929 in attendance at the 60,000-capacity arena, that was hosting just its third Test match since opening in 2018, Australia’s bats soaked up some early pressure before running rampant in the final session.
The West Indies bowlers persevered throughout, but the use of all six in the opening session highlighted how effortlessly Australia’s second-wicket pair handled their attacks.
Alzarri Joseph (0-46) bought some heat and aggression with a bumper barrage of Labuschagne, who was beaten a handful of times outside of off, and had to take evasive action on other occasions.
Kyle Mayers (1-24) was sparingly used despite being economical in his first spell, but when the Barbadian all-rounder returned before tea he proved to be the key that finally unlocked the partnership, having Khawaja feathering behind to Joshua da Silva off the first ball of his spell.
That appeared to rattle Australia — Kemar Roach (0-59) finding Labuschagne’s edge in the very next over, only for the ball to fly through the hands of Jason Holder at second slip, the frustration only growing when the next two balls had the Australian number three squared up.
But the dangerous over from Roach was more of an aberration as Labuschagne and Smith added 141 runs for the third wicket — with the promise of many more to come on day two.
Debutant Tagenarine Chanderpaul, son of Guyanese legend Shivnarine, could have caught Labuschagne when he was on 136 off the bowling of Jayden Seales (1-63) to somewhat change the complexion of the day for the tourists, but put down a tough chance diving forward at deep point.
While Labsuchagne and Co patiently accumulated runs in the middle though, Warner was back in the sheds, contemplating a form slump that has seen him pass 50 just four times in his last 22 Test innings.
Since his last Test ton, an unbeaten 111 against New Zealand at the SCG in 2020, Warner averages just 27.52, well below his overall Test average of 46.28.
It was his ninth single-digit score in that same time frame.
Chopping on when attempting an expansive drive to a wide Seales delivery indicated he was perhaps waiting on another short ball and he was unable to adjust his feet in time to drive.
The 97-Test veteran will, barring injury, play his 100th Test on Boxing Day at the MCG against South Africa.
But the duration of his slump has raised questions about the 36-year-old’s future at Test level, with Marcus Harris and Matthew Renshaw both waiting in the wings after impressing against the tourists in Canberra last week for the Prime Minister’s XI.