Marnus defends ‘treacherous’ pitch despite copping nasty blow, Marsh gets attitude adjustment, Pakistan fined


Marnus Labuschagne says it would have taken more than a damaged finger to rule him out of the Boxing Day Test, and he doesn’t hold any grudges against the cracking Optus Stadium wicket.

Labuschagne was sent off for scans on his right little finger on Saturday night after being struck by debutant Pakistan paceman Khurram Shahzad.

The cracking wicket created all sorts of problems for batters on days three and four.

Steve Smith was struck twice, Usman Khawaja sustained a painful blow just below his right elbow, and Mitch Marsh was twice hit on the helmet.

Pakistan were rolled for just 89 in the second innings as the ball wildly jagged and bounced, handing Australia a whopping 360-run win and a 1-0 lead in the series heading into Melbourne.

Labuschagne was cleared of any fracture, guaranteeing he will be fit for the Boxing Day Test.

It also means allrounder Cameron Green is unlikely to find a way back into the XI just yet.

Labuschagne hinted that even if his scans had come back worse than they did, he would have played the Boxing Day Test anyway.

“It was funny, Greeny messaged me on the way to getting a scan and he just said, ‘I hope it all goes well, good luck’,” Labuschagne said.

“And I said, ‘It’s not going to make a difference’. It’s going have to take something pretty serious I reckon to have me miss a game.”

Labuschagne proved to himself that he was all good to go by returning to the nets on Sunday to face firebrand Lance Morris.

“The finger’s fine. There’s no break,” Labuschagne said. “It hit me more on the knuckle side and sort of just jammed up my hand.

(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

“I was a bit nervous out there because … I’ve had a lot of finger blows but it felt a bit different. It just got me in a bit of an awkward spot. There was no padding on that side of the glove. 

“But I’ve got some really good range in it, so it’s all good.”

Barring late injuries, Australia will field an unchanged XI in Melbourne as they attempt to extend their home winning streak against Pakistan to 16 Tests.

The unpredictability of the Optus Stadium pitch on days three and four created havoc for batters with Mark Waugh describing it as treacherous in commentary, but Labuschagne didn’t think it was a dangerous surface. “It was a bit of a brutal end there with the wicket’s cracks opening up,” Labuschagne said.

“I mean, no one likes batting when it’s like that – up and down, the sharp, steep bounce on a fast wicket. That’s not your cup of tea for anyone, but you just have to find a way when it’s like that.

“Potentially if that’s a day one wicket, there might be a few more questions asked. But I think that’s sort of what you what you get coming here (to Perth). So no, I don’t think it was was reaching that (dangerous) stage, but certainly it was just one of those tough games that you get here.”

Mitch embraces his strengths at last

Mitch Marsh has finally embraced the Mitch Marsh way, and Australian cricket is reaping the rewards.

Marsh produced quickfire knocks of 90 and 63no to be named man of the match in Australia’s Test series-opening 360-run win over Pakistan in Perth.

The 32-year-old also claimed the crucial scalp of Babar Azam in the first innings to further highlight his all-round value to the team. Marsh has been a revelation since his four-year Test hiatus was ended during the Ashes in July, and he looms as a key figure over the next two years ahead of the arrival of India and England to Australia.

One key difference in the new-look Marsh is his willingness to embrace his strengths, rather than try to imitate the strengths of others.

Marsh is the first to admit he will never have the temperament of an Usman Khawaja or a Marnus Labuschagne, but one thing he has in spades is power.

It’s that live-by-the-sword, die-by-the-sword mantra that is serving Marsh so well in all three formats of the game. “I think he’s just got a really clear process at the moment in whatever format it is,” Australia captain Pat Cummins said.

“He knows how to score runs, and you know he doesn’t really care what it looks like. I think in the past you can get caught up in, ‘There’s a template of how you’re meant to play Test cricket or supposed to play Test cricket and you’ve got to have a good forward defence’.

“I think how Travis Head’s gone about it, David Warner his whole career, and now Mitch Marsh shows that it doesn’t really matter how you score them, as long as you’re scoring runs.

“I think Mitch has found a really good game plan, wherever he is in the world.”

(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Tardy Pakistan in strife

Pakistan have been fined 10 per cent of their match fee and penalised two ICC World Test Championship points for a slow over rate against Australia in the first Test in Perth.

Match referee Javagal Srinath imposed the sanction after Pakistan were ruled to be two overs short of the target after time allowances were taken into consideration.

Players are fined five per cent of their match fee for every over their side fails to bowl in the allotted time while the side is penalised one point for each over short.

Pakistan captain Shan Masood pleaded guilty to the offence and accepted the proposed sanction.

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