Labuschagne hits 154* to lead Australian dominance against WI

SUMMARY: Australia 293-2 (Marnus Labuschagne 154*, Usman Khawaja 65, Steve Smith 59*; Kyle Mayers 1-24, Jayden Seales 1-63) vs West Indies

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Late on the first evening of the Australian Test summer, debutant Tagenarine Chanderpaul got another taste of the challenges of playing Test cricket.

Marnus Labuschagne attempted an upper cut and Chanderpaul, fielding at deep point was a touch slow to pick it up. He eventually broke into a sprint but the ball dropped just short.

By then Labuschagne had been on 136. He finished unbeaten on 154*, his eighth Test century powering the hosts to a dominant 293-2 at the end of Day One in Perth.

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West Indies’ bowlers soldiered on manfully and didn’t do too much wrong on a pitch that played a touch slow to start and then progressively got quicker.

There were, however, few chances created over the 90 overs as Australia kept them at bay with a pair of 142-run partnerships – first between Labuschagne and Usman Khawaja (65) and then later between the centurion and Steve Smith (59*).

West Indies, who lost the toss in the morning, attacked with the new ball, stationing as many as five slips at the start of the innings. The cordon didn’t see much action as Australia left judiciously with only one edge falling short of Holder.

The visitors did however land an early strike through Jayden Seales, who shook off pre-match injury concerns and had David Warner play on a full and wide ball after having cracked a pulled four the delivery before.

Labuschagne had a tetchy beginning to his innings with the pacy Alzarri Joseph troubling him with the short ball, even hitting Australia’s No.3 on the glove while fending. West Indies shifted to a strategy of having two fielders out on the pull but once again, those fielders didn’t see much action either.

To the visitors’ credit, they were disciplined with their lines and that meant the Australian pair couldn’t break free. Australia went through an 86-ball period without scoring a boundary, biding their time to break free. That pressure release came with the introduction of spin.

Labuschagne stepped out and off-drove Roston Chase for a four while Khawaja hit an inside-out six and a pulled four to add heft to the scoreboard before the Lunch interval.

Ninety runs came between Lunch and Tea after 72 had come in the first session, an indication of how scoring was getting progressively easier. Like in the first session, West Indies’ bowlers didn’t do much wrong and alternated between placing four in the slip cordon and two on the pull without any success.

Seales did win a mini-battle against Labuschagne, hurrying Australia’s No.3 on a pull and then seeing an edge evade the cordon. Between these plays however, the game proceeded at a serene rate with West Indies doing their best to keep run-scoring at check.

The pair of Khawaja and Labuschagne, however, were able to put pressure on Roston Chase, the off-spinner going consistently at five runs to the over.

Both the batters got to their respective fifties before Kyle Mayers got the eventual breakthrough by getting Khawaja to nick off with the first ball of his spell.

Mayers, who was brought to bowl ahead of Jason Holder in the morning session, continued to impress with his swing and control and gave away just nine runs from his first seven overs.

The floodgates though opened in the final session, one in which Australia pulled well clear of their opponents by adding 131 runs without losing a wicket. Steve Smith began positively by hitting a pull shot for four while Labuschagne got going again with a sequence of drives through the off-side.

In their attempts to get the Australian batters nicking off, West Indies conceded a slew of runs through the cover region as the first hour after Tea brought Australia 78 runs.

Labuschagne eventually got to his century, his seventh in 18 home Tests, with a cut past cover-point. Smith, who West Indies tried to get to fall over on the flick, prospered with a lot of runs on the leg-side and motored along to a half-century of his own.

Kraigg Brathwaite rotated his bowlers around but to no avail. The second new ball right at the end of the day’s play drew a couple of plays and misses and one wasted DRS referral.

But nothing more. And that quite summed up West Indies’ grind. (cricbuzz)

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