Australia v New Zealand | Marnus Labuschagne stars in engrossing start to Trans-Tasman series


New Zealand braved soaring temperatures and were rewarded for their toil and discipline in the evening with the wickets of Smith and Matthew Wade as the pink ball came to life. After winning the toss, the hosts were 4-248 at stumps.

Both cricket tragics, Labuschagne and Smith are inseparable off the field and for much of the first day they were hard to part on it, their 132-run stand forming the bedrock of Australia’s innings.

The Queenslander has already adopted some of his senior partner’s fidgety mannerisms, including the exaggerated “light sabre” leave and, most importantly, his appetite for runs. It was Smith, and not the umpire, whom he turned to for confirmation he had reached his ton off a six.

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Doubted by many as a Test batsman a year ago, Labuschagne is now the leading run-scorer this year – and by some margin.

In an indication of how smooth his transition has been to the baggy green, the Queenslander is the fourth fastest Australian to 1000 runs. Only Don Bradman, Neil Harvey and Sid Barnes have reached the milestone in fewer than his 18 innings.

Those in the crowd of 19,084 watching Labuschagne and Smith bat for the first time would have been surprised to learn it was the former who was the junior batsman.

While Labuschagne continued his rare form, Smith, whose batting was out of the world in the Ashes, was reduced to a mere mortal. The former captain was outscored by about two to one by his partner.

Smith did not capitalise his good fortune and after labouring to 43 off 164 balls was disgusted with himself for falling into the short ball trap set by Kane Williamson and Neil Wagner, who had the batsman caught at leg gully.

The Black Caps were happy to bore him out, refusing to attack the stumps so they could restrict his scoring through his preferred on-side. Wagner peppered him with short balls, which ended up bringing the champion batsman’s demise.

The Mr Nice Guys of world cricket made the hosts scrounge for every run but with attack spearhead and pink ball dynamo Trent Boult missing lacked a knockout punch during sunlight hours.

While Australian teams of old may have perished trying to stamp their mark on the game, Justin Langer’s side have chosen a more humble approach. For much of the day, the run rate hovered at well below the three per over mark.

There were several reason for this. The hosts were given few loose deliveries by a Black Caps attack which proved leagues above Pakistan’s.

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They bowled to the tight fields set by captain Williamson, who has clearly done his research, and were supported by their fielders – though Tom Latham’s reprieve of Smith was costly.

Tim Southee made an early statement when he struck Joe Burns with a shy at the stumps but there was also plenty of substance to the Kiwis’ play.

Warner will have to wait a bit longer to pass Bradman’s 6996 runs after he was dismissed for 43, only the second time this international season he has been dismissed for less than 50.

The method of dismissal may not have been high up in the Kiwis’ playbook but so prolific has Warner been rivals will take any mode of dismissal against the dynamic opener.

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