Bad light & rain ends day with Australia two down

Stumps Australia 147 for 2 (Labuschagne 79, Khawaja 54*, Nortje 2-26) vs South Africa

Marnus Labuschagne and Usman Khawaja hit half-centuries for Australia on a truncated day one before Anrich Nortje helped South Africa claw back into the third Test at a gloomy SCG.

After captain Pat Cummins won a crucial toss and elected to bat on a dry surface, Australia reached stumps at 147 for 2 with Khawaja unbeaten on 54 and Steven Smith yet to face a delivery.

Labuschagne fell for 79 on what turned out to be the final delivery of the day’s play. Only 47 overs were bowled due to bad light and rain much to the disappointment of the 31,000 crowd in another Sydney Test match affected by inclement conditions.

Labuschagne and Khawaja had built a strong platform with a 135-run partnership after the early loss of opener David Warner for 10. There was a delay of more than two hours due to bad light before five overs were squeezed in late in the day and Nortje capitalised with a cracking delivery to remove Labuschagne.

Exerting plenty of energy, Nortje conjured sharp bounce and pace on the slow surface to produce an unplayable delivery that had Labuschagne caught behind.

After a lionhearted effort in Melbourne, Nortje was again the standout with 2 for 26 from 11 overs having earlier taken the wicket of Warner. He has kept a struggling South Africa buoyant after Australia threatened to grab an early stranglehold of the contest.

Labuschagne had been irrepressible until on 70 he appeared to be dismissed out of nowhere when he edged seamer Marco Jansen to first slip where Simon Harmer claimed a low catch.

It was given out on the soft signal but Labuschagne stood his ground and it seemed difficult to prove from replays whether Harmer had his hands under the ball close to the turf.

Third umpire Richard Kettleborough overturned the decision much to the frustration of South Africa. It only furthered Labuschagne’s reputation as a rather charmed batter but he had played imperiously before that contentious incident with five boundaries in 12 balls to go from 40 to 61.

After bowling well before lunch, Harmer trapped Khawaja lbw with the second delivery of the second session only for the decision to be reversed when replays showed the ball hit the glove first.

Having revived his career a year ago with twin centuries against England on this ground, Khawaja passed 4000 career Test runs en route to a half-century.

Under-pressure South Africa captain Dean Elgar once again made questionable decisions, including under-utilising Harmer who bowled just five overs even though his off-spin particularly threatened left-handed Khawaja.

Elgar, however, backed underperforming left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj who bowled nine overs for 35 runs with Labuschagne and Khawaja sweeping effectively against him.

Maharaj has now bowled 52.5 overs without reward in this series.

While Nortje toiled, spearhead Kagiso Rabada continued his underwhelming series to finish with 0 for 45 off 12 overs. He unsuccessfully reverted to bowling short against Labuschagne, who counterattacked with ease.

Ashton Agar, Josh Hazlewood and Matt Renshaw were named in an Australia team attempting a clean sweep of the series and a spot in the World Test Championship final in June.

There was drama when Renshaw, playing his first Test since 2018, tested positive for Covid-19 on a rapid antigen test after feeling unwell before the day’s play, but he will continue to play in the match.

With the SCG surface set to play more traditionally, Australia named two frontline spinners at home for the first time in six years with left-arm spinner Agar making his return having not played Tests since 2017.

Regular quick Hazlewood returned from a side strain having edged out Scott Boland and uncapped tearaway Lance Morris.

Along with Harmer, who replaced Lungi Ngidi, South Africa named batter Heinrich Klaasen in place of Theunis de Bruyn who returned home for the birth of his first child.

South Africa still have a slim chance at qualifying for the WTC final with a consolation victory as their spirit lifted after Njorte’s late heroics.

(Story from ESPNcricinfo by Tristan Lavalette)


Brathwaite’s ton defies Australia but Lyon strikes late

West Indies 283 & 192 for 3 (Brathwaite 101, Mayers 0) need 306 more runs to beat Australia 598 for 4 dec & 182 for 2 dec (Labuschagne 104*)

Captain Kraigg Brathwaite scored his 11th Test century to defy an Australian attack without Pat Cummins as a gutsy West Indies pushed the first Test into a fifth day.

Needing a record 498 runs for victory or – more realistically – to bat through 154 overs to draw, Brathwaite superbly batted through the final two sessions of day four to provide hope for the injury-hit tourists.

But West Indies’ chances of starving off defeat in the series opener still appear unlikely even amid the uncertainty over Cummins, who did not bowl after experiencing quadricep soreness/ He returned to the field in the final session and appeared to be moving around without obvious discomfort. An assessment tomorrow morning will determine whether Cummins can bowl on the fifth day.

Marnus Labuschagne scored an unbeaten century to become only the 8th man to score a double-century & a ton in the same Test Match.

Nathan Lyon relished shouldering more of the workload and claimed two wickets as he conjured menacing bounce on the Optus Stadium surface.

Leading from the front, Brathwaite was in sublime touch and scored uncharacteristically quickly to make Australia’s shorthanded attack toil. He reached a deserved ton just before stumps but will likely need to bat for the long haul on day five to thwart Australia’s bid for victory.

Brathwaite passed 5000 Test runs with a gorgeous drive down the ground to capitalise on the unavailability of Cummins, who had starred in West Indies’ first innings to claim his 200th Test wicket.

Former skipper Steve Smith took the captaincy reins during Cummins’s absence as Australia failed to make inroads against Brathwaite and debutant Tagenarine Chanderpaul, who batted mostly untroubled through the entire second session. Chanderpaul scored just three runs off his first 36 balls in an effective rearguard alongside a fluent Brathwaite.

Tagenarine Chanderpaul impressed for his 45 in West Indies 2nd innings as he & skipper Kraig Brathwaite put on an opening stand of 116.

For a spark, Smith even resorted to Marnus Labuschagne who bowled medium pacers instead of his usual legspin but it didn’t do the trick.

But the return of Cummins, even though he couldn’t bowl, was surely a tonic for Australia as quick Mitchell Starc finally provided the breakthrough when Chanderpaul chopped on to end an impressive Test debut with scores of 51 and 45.

Starc made amends after dropping Chanderpaul moments earlier on the boundary with Australia’s frustration underlined by Cameron Green punching the ground having missed out on a wicket.

Australia’s mood brightened when Lyon picked up Shamarh Brooks, who as the concussion substitute had batted well against the odds in the first innings but fell cheaply second time around after edging to slip.

Australia hoped to tear through West Indies amid the ground’s increasing shadows but Jermaine Blackwood successfully reviewed a lbw decision off Josh Hazlewood. However, He never looked comfortable and fell to Lyon just before stumps.

Australia had earlier declared their second innings at lunch after Labuschagne added a ton to his first innings double century. Labuschagne rode some luck to become just the third Australia batter after Greg Chappell and Doug Walters to score a double century and century in the same Test.

Labuschagne made 308 runs for the match to continue a personal run spree at Optus Stadium after he scored 143 and 50 against New Zealand three years ago in the last Test played at the ground.

Labuschagne received luck on his way to his ninth Test century when he top-edged to gully via his helmet but was reprieved by a no-ball from Alzarri Joseph amid a riveting battle.

After receiving medical attention, Labuschagne continued on his merry way and passed 2000 Test runs in Australia in his 31st innings. Only Sir Don Bradman (19 in England and 26 in Australia), and Sir Garfield Sobers (29 in West Indies) have achieved the milestone in a country faster.

David Warner, however, missed a golden opportunity to end a three-year Test drought when he fell for 48, while Green didn’t bat in the match in his debut Test at home.

West Indies’ shorthanded attack was unable to limit Australia with spearhead Kemar Roach forced off after injuring his left thigh, while seamer Kyle Mayers did not bowl in the innings due to a strain in his right teres major muscle.

Adding to their woes, top-order batter Nkrumah Bonner was on day three substituted out of the match with concussion after being hit in the back of the helmet from a Green short delivery.

But the beleaguered tourists reached the final day and their hopes rested on their gritty skipper.

(Story by Tristan Lavalette/ESPNcricinfo)

Windies survive late exam after Smith’s unbeaten double

Despite boasting a pair of double century makers in the same Test innings for the first time in over a decade, Australia’s remorseless dominance of the first NRMA Insurance Test was stymied by a brave West Indies opening stand that announced the arrival of a new batting hope.

In reply to their hosts’ daunting first innings of 4(dec)-598 – underpinned by Marnus Labuschagne’s 204 and Steve Smith’s unbeaten 200 – the West Indies reached 0-74 at stumps on day two with Tagennarine Chanderpaul in sight of a half-century in his maiden Test innings.

Smith and Labuschagne became the first pair of double century makers in the same innings since Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting achieved the rare feat against India at Adelaide Oval in 2011, with Travis Head missing out on his triple-figure milestone by the barest of margins.

But in contrast to the often-abject resignation they showed in the latter half of their bowling innings, the West Indies reply with bat in hand was doggedly defiant.

Skipper Kraigg Brathwaite (18no) and his debutant opening partner Chanderpaul (47no from just 73 balls faced) withstood 21 overs of high octane pace bowling under thick evening cloud during which they both copped multiple blows.

Chanderpaul was especially impressive, wearing an eye-watering hit from Josh Hazlewood that left him prostrate on pitch edge for several minutes as team medicos pumped his legs in a brave bid to quell the pain and mitigate the shock.

The fine-boned left-hander was also struck several times on the upper body as he concertina-ed himself limbo-style beneath a barrage of short balls, but in between those moments he drove and cut without fear to suggest a productive career awaits.

The 26-year-old – whose father, Shivnarine, was inducted to the ICC’s Hall of Fame last month – also survived a confident shout for lbw in Mitchell Starc’s second over (when on four) that fell narrowly in his favour when adjudged as ‘umpire’s call’.

Brathwaite also benefited from the DRS process, although the appeal for a catch behind off Pat Cummins when he was on 16 was revealed to be more in hope with the ball passing harmlessly past his outside edge.

But for all the pluck shown by the visitors’ first-wicket pair, they still have a sizeable mountain to scale.

At the close of play yesterday, Usman Khawaja told he expected day two to offer the best batting conditions of the Test.

But even at his most optimistic, he could not have envisaged Australia would subjugate the West Indies bowling as utterly and remorselessly as they did for 62.4 overs today.

During those two-and-a-bit sessions, they plundered 305 runs against some of the most desultory bowling Test cricket in this country has witnessed for the loss of just two wickets – both of which fell to occasional spinner Brathwaite as the result of self-inflicted wounds.

The first of those was Labuschagne, having celebrated his second Test double-century on the cusp of lunch at which point his half-hearted dab at one of Brathwaite’s round-arm off-breaks nestled in the gloves of keeper Joshua da Silva.

It’s not often a Test batter heads to the sheds with a double-hundred to his name but so demonstrably disconsolate, a clear indication the 28-year-old felt he had left at least another century out there.

It was also a less rueful countenance than that aired by Head, who had motored to 99 at better than a run per ball with his greatest conundrum being how to engage in some mindful eating against a sumptuous buffet of parklands bowling until he outsmarted himself.

With his teammates all waiting boundary side in full playing kit, having been told Australia’s declaration would come immediately after both he and Smith posted their respective milestones, Head attempted a similarly meek shot to that which undid Labuschagne.

And instead of netting him the single that would have brought his fifth Test century, it instead yielded an inside edge back on to off stump that meant Head became the 25th Australia batter – and the first since Shaun Marsh against India at the MCG in 2014 – to be dismissed for 99.

It was an ignominious end to an innings of otherwise flawless fluency that shone far brighter than the bowling he faced, but was always going to be an afterthought to Smith’s contribution.

With barely a mishit during the seven hours and batted and from the 311 deliveries he faced, Smith not only made good his prediction he was getting back to his batting best but ensured the statement was heavily underscored and appended with an exclamation point.

Although he would have to concede he’s faced more searching training sessions against teenage net bowlers than he was subjected to for much of today’s knock.

The fact West Indies skipper Brathwaite enlisted barely medium pacers Jason Holder (around 125kph) and Kyle Mayers (120kph) before finally unleashing his fastest bowlers Alzarri Joseph and Jayden Seales until much later in the opening session.

Mayers had indicated prior to play starting he was feeling sore after yesterday’s 11-over workload, and Seales must surely have been afflicted by some ailment given he had taken one of the two wickets to fall on day one during which he was his team’s most threatening bowler.

But even if the West Indies boasted an attack the calibre of those legendary 1980s outfits, it’s doubtful they could have curtailed Smith such was his technical mastery and mental strength.

Upon reaching his 29th Test ton shortly after the day’s first drinks break, Smith not only equalled the centuries tally of Don Bradman but did so in his 155th Test innings with only Bradman (79) and India’s Sachin Tendulkar (148) having reached the milestone in fewer knocks.

By that stage, another of the game’s all-time greats – former West Indies skipper Brian Lara – noted in commentary for Fox Cricket that his former team had no chance of claiming all 10 Australia wickets and their best hope was to limit scoring until a declaration salved their pain.

But that modest assignment proved beyond them as Smith joined with Labuschagne to flay 109 from the 28 overs until lunch, and then found even greater freedom in union with Head as they carved 166 from the next 30 overs up to tea.

In reaching his fourth double-hundred moments before Head’s dismissal brought the declaration, Smith joined Greg Chappell and Clarke with four scores of 200 or more for Australia.

Only Bradman (12) and Ponting (six) have posted more.

The ease with which Australia’s batters scored represents a troublesome trend against a once-feared bowling line-up which is scheduled to return here for a further two Tests next summer.

In their past five first innings against West Indies on home soil (including today’s efforts), Australia have piled on 2,428 runs for the loss of 20 wickets at an average of more than 485 per innings and in excess of 120 runs per scalp.

And that includes the first innings of the previous encounter at the SCG seven years ago when rain curtailed the game with Australia 2-176 in their first innings and seemingly on target for another hefty total.

The visitors’ plight was best encapsulated by the belated introduction of Joseph into the attack more than an hour into the day, by which time Labuschagne had progressed to 186 without being troubled by the diet of medium-pace he had been fed throughout the morning.

With his third delivery of his second over – having changed ends after his first – Joseph’s extra pace induced a tentative steer from Australia’s number three that flew barely over the outstretched fingertips of substitute fielder Shamarh Brooks stationed at fine gully.

Joseph’s clear irritation at his teammate’s less-than-urgent effort was doubtless compounded by the knowledge Brooks was on the field for Holder who – at around 30cm taller and one of world cricket’s best close catchers – would likely have plucked the rare offering.

(Story by Andrew Ramsey/