Concussion sub Labuschagne guides Australia to ODI win
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Marnus Labuschagne has come to Australia’s rescue in the role of concussion substitute, lifting his side out of a hole and to a three-wicket win over South Africa in the first one-day international at Bloemfontein.
Not selected in the original XI, Labuschagne replaced Cameron Green during the run chase on Thursday night (Friday AEST) and stroked a masterful unbeaten 80 as Australia reeled in the Proteas’ all-out 222, featuring a ton from Temba Bavuma, with 58 balls to spare.
Australia activated the concussion sub after Green was forced to retire hurt in the sixth over of the run chase, struck in the helmet second ball by a vicious Kagiso Rabada bouncer.
Labuschagne, famously, became the first concussion sub in Test history when he replaced Steve Smith during the Lord’s Test of the 2019 Ashes series, which proved a defining moment of his career.
This time, he and Ashton Agar, who produced a career-best 48 not out, saved Australia’s skin after a reckless batting exhibition saw them crash to 7-113 in just the 17th over.
The pair combined for a magnificent, match-turning 112-run eighth-wicket stand, finally providing the sane approach the situation demanded.
Marnus Labuschagne’s masterful 80 not out lifted Australia to a three-wicket win in Bloemfontein.Credit: AP
The tourists’ reply had started shakily when David Warner dragged on to Marco Jansen for a duck in the first over.
Mitch Marsh, the hero of Australia’s 3-0 Twenty20 series sweep, crunched a wayward Rabada for a flurry of boundaries before the Proteas spearhead had the last laugh when the Australian skipper, on 17, tickled a magnificent outswinger to Quinton de Kock.
Rabada castled Josh Inglis (1) in his next over before holding on to a high catch at square leg to get rid of danger man Travis Head (33).
The runs continued to flow – Australia flying at well over a run-a-ball – but so did the wickets.
Gerald Coetzee’s first delivery sent the middle stump of Alex Carey (3) flying before Marcus Stoinis (17) holed out tamely and Sean Abbott (9) was castled by a sharp-turning rip-snorter from Keshav Maharaj. Coetzee (2-44) and Rabada (2-48) were the pick of the bowlers but neither really troubled Labuschagne nor Agar.
Earlier, South Africa captain Bavuma produced an epic solo ton, becoming just the 13th opener and second South African – after Herschelle Gibbs in 2000 – to carry his bat in an ODI innings.
Bavuma (114 not out) defied leg cramps and a difficult pitch to post his fifth ODI century and single-handedly give his team hope.
Jansen (32) offered the most sustained support for Bavuma after de Kock (11), Aiden Markram (19) and Henrich (14) failed to capitalise on their starts.
Bavuma, who was dropped on two by Agar and 88 by Carey, farmed the strike expertly in a 37-run stand for the last wicket with Lungi Ngidi, who didn’t score.
Josh Hazlewood (3-41) and Stoinis (2-20) were Australia’s best with the ball.
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