Ashes villain Stuart Broad may have the right to believe he has finally got in Australia batter Marnus Labuschagne’s head.
Not with his outswinger, inswinger, or any other ball he bowls from outside the right-hander’s off stump.
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Instead, this is about Labuschagne’s bails. Or more precisely, Broad playing with them.
Labuschagne produced the slowest innings, of more than 50 balls, by an Australian this century on Friday, soaking up 82 deliveries for his nine in the first session in London.
But looking as if he was in for the long haul, Labuschagne edged a Mark Wood ball out of nowhere and was out when caught superbly by Joe Root at first slip.
Joe Root takes a screamer to dismiss Marnus Labuschagne. Credit: Getty Images
It kickstarted a collapse of 6-94, before Australia fought back to be all out for 295 and with a lead of 12 runs.
Labuschagne’s dismissal came a delivery after Broad swapped the bails on the right-hander’s stumps, believing it was a good-luck charm that Australians believe in.
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Labuschagne, of all the Australians, is most regimented when it comes to his bails.
The Queenslander often checks the off bail is in its groove properly at the start of an over, blaming a dismissal as a teenager on it being loose.
“Marnus is someone who would notice everything so he took notice of it,” Broad said.
“It just worked out pretty magically that he nicked off next ball and Rooty took a great catch.”
Marnus Labuschagne looks on as Stuart Broad flips the bails. Credit: Twitter
Broad said Usman Khawaja at the other end had immediately warned him after not to touch his bails.
But when Labuschagne bats again in the second innings, Broad would be happy to do it again.
“It was a pretty successful result wasn’t it?” Broad said.
“So I think if the game gets tight, I might wander up again.”
Labuschagne was visibly frustrated when walking off the field after the dismissal.
Former England great Nasser Hussain said in the commentary: “We thought Broad was pleased with himself because Khawaja turned down the run in the beginning of the over. Actually Broad was pleased with himself because of a bit of magic on the bails.
“He flipped the bails over. (Labuschagne) had a smile with Khawaja at the other end, and literally the very next delivery he … nicks it to Root, who takes a brilliant catch.
“Watch Broad’s reaction here. A pat on the back to Khawaja and Stokes is absolutely thrilled as well. Labuschagne less than thrilled.”
Former England cricketer Mark Butcher wondered if Broad’s act was in the “spirit of the game”.
Hussain responded: “settle down Butcher … Don’t even go there.”
Butcher did admit he “was surprised that Marnus just sort of stood there and watched” Broad do it.
Labuschagne also appeared to be not happy with the light and even Broad believed he had a point given it appeared darker at The Oval than when players were forced off in the gloom of Manchester last week.
But by the same token, Broad would not let Labuschagne end the day without one further barb thrown his way.
“He strikes me as the sort of batter who is never out, and has to find a reason why he’s out. So the light took a pounding I think,” Broad said.
“To be fair … it was probably a bit darker than it was at Old Trafford when we came off.
“At the Oval, because of where the sightscreen is, underneath the stands are quite angled and it does look dark when you look out that way.”
After Labuschagne fell for nine, the game changed.
Australia lost 6-94 as the ball offered some movement to England’s quicks and the tourists’ shots grew looser destroying any hope of a big lead for England.
Steve Smith stood firm with 71, before Pat Cummins (36) and Todd Murphy (34) put on 49 for the ninth wicket to give Australia a 12-run lead.
At the end of play, Australia was all out for 295, leading England (283) by 12 runs.
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