Labuschagne and Head post dominant twin tons

Australia 330 for 3 (Labuschagne 120, Head 114, Khawaja 62) vs West Indies

Marnus Labuschagne and hometown hero Travis Head struck near-flawless centuries to dominate the pink ball, as Australia put a struggling West Indies attack to the sword on day one of the second Test in Adelaide.

After stand-in captain Steven Smith elected to bat, Labuschagne and Head combined for an unbeaten fourth-wicket partnership of 199 to power Australia to a commanding position at stumps. Labuschagne hit his 10th Test century on the back of his double-century and hundred in Australia’s 164-run series opening win in Perth.

While his good fortune has been widely noted, rearing again after riding his luck in the first Test, Labuschagne produced a chanceless innings as he became the first Australian batter to notch three straight Test tons since Adam Voges in 2015-16.

He completed the feat with a boundary through point under lights in the final session and raised his arms aloft to strong applause from the 24,449 crowd at the Adelaide Oval. Labuschagne’s 235-ball knock was marked by unwavering concentration and patience in tricky early conditions before he toyed with West Indies’ flagging bowlers.

He was well supported by Head, who scored his fifth Test ton and first on his home ground with a brilliant drive to the boundary much to the delight of the Adelaide Oval faithful. Head’s aggressive mood continued after making 99 in his sole innings in Perth, targeting the short square boundaries and continually plundering West Indies’ increasingly ragged bowling through point.

The pair flattened West Indies’ attempts at a comeback after the quick wickets in the middle session of opener Usman Khawaja and Smith, who fell for just his fifth duck in Tests in Australia. But sloppy bowling and fielding left West Indies frustrated as their hopes of ending a 25-year Test drought in Australia with a series-levelling victory already appearing forlorn.

Much like in Perth, where they claimed only six wickets in 190 overs across two innings, West indies’ bowlers were inconsistent and failed to penetrate on a surface with occasional bounce and movement. Without injured frontline quicks Kemar Roach and Jayden Seales, West Indies speedster Alzarri Joseph unsuccessfully targeted a short-ball strategy and resisted trying to conjure swing with the new ball.

But he did dismiss opener David Warner, who was caught behind for 21 in a rash dismissal in another missed opportunity to end a near three-year Test century drought.

Briefly attempting a rally, West Indies bowled with more discipline in the second session through seamers Jason Holder and Anderson Phillip, who impressed with accuracy in just his second Test match.

But it was debutant Devon Thomas who broke through by trapping Khawaja lbw for 62 with his handy seamers providing a surprise option.

It was a much-needed tonic for an injury-hit West Indies, whose woes deepened when debutant quick Marquino Mindley left the field in the first session with a suspected hamstring injury after bowling just two overs. Mindley had arrived in Adelaide on Monday from the Caribbean as injury cover.

Captain Kraigg Brathwaite scrambled for inspiration throughout the day’s play and used seven bowlers. He unsuccessfully reverted to spinner Roston Chase as the first change bowler in a baffling move. He again unwisely used Chase and his own part-time spin before the tea break to release the pressure on new batter Head, who counterattacked with ease.

It paved the way for a sub-par final session for West Indies under lights with the second new ball failing to do the trick as the beleaguered tourists stare down the barrel of conceding another massive first-innings total to Australia.

Both teams made a host of changes, with Australia’s regular captain Pat Cummins failing to overcome a quad strain he picked up during the first Test, while quick Josh Hazlewood was ruled out with a side strain.

Seamers Scott Boland and Michael Neser added to Test matches they played last summer against England, while former captain Smith took the reins from Cummins like he did in last year’s Ashes Test in Adelaide.

Even though he endured an uncharacteristic failure with the bat, falling to Holder in a return catch, Smith should be well pleased with Australia making a strong start in their bid for an 11th straight day-night Test victory.

(Story by Tristan Lavalette/ESPNcricinfo. Photos from ESPNcricinfo)


Published by

Michelangelo Jacobus

Sports Editor and Founder of 'The 592 Dugout'.

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