Marnus Labuschagne has shown he can be a man for all formats, even after he and Steve Smith were unable to save Australia from being forced into a decider against India on Sunday.
- India made 6-340, with Shikhar Dhawan scoring 96 and KL Rahul scoring 80 off 52 balls
- Adam Zampa took 3-50, including the wicket of Virat Kohli for the seventh time in his career
- Steve Smith (98) and Marnus Labuschagne (46) combined for a 94-run third wicket stand
Smith hit his highest ODI score in three years in Australia’s 36-run loss to the hosts on Friday night, while Labuschagne struck 46 in the doomed pursuit of 340.
It marked Australia’s first loss of the summer when they were all out for 314, and set up a decider for the three-match series in Bangalore on Sunday.
If Australia wins, history — as the first touring team to win back-to-back ODI series in India in more than a decade — beckons.
For that to happen, they’ll likely need more of the same from Smith and Labuschagne, who led Australia’s innings on Friday with a 96-run third-wicket stand.
Smith played brilliantly for his 98.
He drove the ball neatly, swept powerfully in front of square and was still as good off his legs as ever.
After David Warner was caught one-handed by Manish Pandey on 15 and Aaron Finch controversially stumped for 33, Smith steadied the ship.
Finch appeared to have some part of his boot behind the line when KL Rahul whipped off the bails, but admitted to Smith that he felt he was out before the third umpire made the “very tight” decision.
Meanwhile, Labuschagne’s 48 doesn’t read as a big total in the scorebook, but it will be the way he went about things that will please selectors.
He was busy at the crease, facing only 16 dots in his 47-ball knock as he got right to work when he arrived with Australia needing more than seven an over.
After a summer of big Test runs as a red-ball specialist, Lauschagne showed there’s no reason why he and Smith can’t form a duo as number three and number four for the next World Cup cycle.
“We know he’s in terrific form, he’s been batting beautifully, but transferring that into one-day cricket now is another thing,” Smith said of Labuschagne.
“He was really busy, we were going at a reasonable rate, we were going at around six an over there for a while.
“I thought he looked exceptionally good tonight. He hit the gaps hard, ran hard between the wickets and played some nice shots.”
Alex Carey also looks like he’ll rise up to number five long term after proving his worth as a batsman in last year’s World Cup.
He hit 18 off 17 on Friday, but fell as part of a horror over for Australia where Steve Smith dragged one on trying to cut Kuldeep Yadav moments later.
But from there, the game was gone, with Australia’s lower middle order still a work in progress.
“We timed our chase pretty well when we lose three wickets in between 30 and 40 overs, it halts the ability to be able to go and try and get 10 an over,” Smith said.
“I would’ve liked to have batted a bit longer and been there in the happy hour.”
Runs will be crucial again on Sunday with Bangalore expected to be flat, setting up another high-scoring game.
That will be the last thing bowlers want to hear after a Rajkot wicket that offered very little.
Legspinner Adam Zampa took three wickets — including Virat Kohli on 78 for a seventh time in international cricket — but it was tough going for the rest.
Mitchell Starc had the second-worst return of his career with 0-78, while Kane Richardson had 2-73.
Ashton Agar also finished with 0-63 from eight overs as Indian opener Shikhar Dhawan hit 96 and KL Rahul 80 in the run-scoring spree.