RESULT
Leeds, May 04 - 07, 2023, County Championship Division Two
245 & 352/4d
(T:492) 106 & 412/9

Match drawn

Report

Marnus Labuschagne rediscovers balance at Yorkshire's expense with devastating 170

Innings has something for everyone, as batter even unfurls shots normally kept in his white-ball arsenal

Marnus Labuschagne on the run, LV= Insurance County Championship, Glamorgan vs Yorkshire, Sofia Gardens, May 14, 2021

Marnus Labuschagne reached his century  •  PA Images via Getty Images

Glamorgan 245 and 352 for 4 dec (Labuschagne 170*, Northeast 66) lead Yorkshire 106 (Neser 7-32) by 491 runs
With all the outrage about the County Championship opening its doors to Australians this summer ahead of the Ashes directed at Steve Smith, perhaps Marnus Labuschagne has gone under the radar. As the 28-year-old peeled off a 170 not out at Headingley with a bit of something for everyone - close to a first victory of the season for Glamorgan; the grand return to form for the No.1-ranked Test batter - you wondered if the anger was, if not misguided, then overdue.
Whether you think such outrage is confected is another matter - it is, of course it is - but there is something to be said of how Labuschagne has ingrained himself so deep into the 18-county system that he has earned honourary Welsh status. Glamorgan are where they are in this match, asking Yorkshire to either chase 492 in 96 overs or last that long in defiance because of a player not just tuning up for future, higher profile battles but revelling in his seniority at a club he has been a part of since 2019.
"We speak most days so I'm sure he'll have a debrief with me on his game and I'll debrief him on what happens on my game," said Labuschagne of a call to Smith later this evening to give him the breakdown of first-class century number 28 - a seventh for Glamorgan. As it happens, this is his second match at this ground. His first was in 2019 as an alternate for Smith, who had been concussed in the Lord's Test the previous week. Labuschagne's 74 and 80 were relegated to footnotes thanks to Ben Stokes (and Jack Leach), though reinforcing the comfort at a Ashes venue that is coming around again this July can't hurt.
Given the different phases of this knock - from the seven off 25 on Friday to the final flourish of 68 off 65 - and the range of strokes among the 25 boundaries, Smith might as well put him on speaker phone and shadow bat around his hotel room. Given Labuschagne usually has plenty to say when discussing cricket, Smith will struggle to get a word in.
That being said, he did consider this a relief, which is worrying from an England perspective.
"I have been a bit sort of all over," Labuschagne said of his start to the season, having come into this match with 84 from three innings. "It hasn't felt like it has come together until that innings. First innings (65) I felt like I batted alright: gritty, not much rhythm at all, and the wicket was a bit tacky and slow, tough to score.
"I hit a few nice straight drives, a couple of nice cover drives and a nice flick through midwicket. That's probably the most I've felt balanced at the crease, I felt like my head position was in a nice spot, my bat path was coming down nicely. That was probably the best time I batted. The first innings was a bit scrappy, I felt like I was squaring up a little bit but those types of wickets make you do those sorts of things. It felt like back at the end there, it really came together nicely but obviously, the situation of the game dictated that."
Those more conventional shots came in the morning session, which began with Sam Northeast new to the crease and a bumper overnight lead of 196. The pair reconnected after a stand of 83 on day one to fashion 148 from the first 34.5 overs of the day.
Who knows what might have happened if Labuschagne had not been dropped on 11 midway through the 7th full over of the day? Finlay Bean reacted superbly to a full-blooded cut, diving high to his left, fully outstretched, getting two hands on the ball. It would have been one of the catches of the summer, but instead lingered ruefully as the only opportunity in the morning session.
With 178 for 2 at lunch, leading by 317 and both batters in possession of half-centuries, Labuschagne called for a charge. Northeast indulged, only to slap to point when a three-figure score for himself looked nailed on. Labuschagne, however, embarked on a pretty spectacular acceleration.
The shift from fifty to hundred took 38 deliveries. But it was 13 within that, taking him from 64 to 96, that confirmed the now one-sided nature of this affair. There were seven fours in that period, most off Mickey Edwards, who was banging the ball in short and getting slapped down the ground by his compatriot.
It took a further 14 deliveries to move to three figures from there, though not due to any pressure beyond an impending milestone. A delay after getting whacked in the Crown Jewels by Matthew Fisher kept him on 97, but soon a guide down to third man through a gap in the cordon for a 17th boundary took him to a first hundred in the third of five matches he has with Glamorgan before joining up with the Australian Test squad ahead of the World Test Championship Final against India at the start of June.
Labuschagne even unfurled a few shots he normally keeps in his white-ball bag, such as a couple of fetch-and-scoops over third man, both against Jordan Thompson. He seemed to reserve particular disdain for former England spinner Dom Bess, striking nine of the 11 boundaries conceded in a galling 10 overs for 76 runs. Every kind of sweep - reverse, paddle, orthodox and slog - was given an airing.
Twice - during the 57th and 77th over - the off-spinner was taken for three boundaries in an over. Considering his introduction 48 overs into this second innings was his first bowl of the match, it was a hiding to nothing, By the time Bess was launched back over his head for Labuschagne's only six, their battle was a microcosm of the match situation. A superfluous flexing of dominance.
Glamorgan, moving to 289 for 4, had a lead of 485. Nine overs later, after Billy Root had picked apart the carcass of a bowling attack for a half-century, they called it quits on a lead of 491. The players left the field at 4:03pm, not to return again as the rains arrived five minutes later to wash out the final session.
Perhaps Glamorgan were spooked that a team like Leicestershire could chase down 389 in the fourth innings here as they did in the season's opening round. But it is clear this Headingley pitch has far more in it for the bowlers than that one. It's worth noting Yorkshire's lack of edge today was primarily due to a lack of Ben Coad, who did not take the field in the second innings after pulling up at the end of his 10th over on day one.
There are fears he might have suffered a recurrence of the groin injury that kept him out for the first half of last summer. He will, however, bat if required. Though perhaps that should be "when" considering Glamorgan needed just 31 overs to dismiss Yorkshire in their first innings.
"We would've liked at least 20 overs at them before the close," said Labuschagne, frustrated. "We got caught a little bit by the rain at the end. If we came off, we couldn't have gone back on in the rain, so we had to keep batting and we got almost 500 ahead.
"It's not ideal, we would probably have liked to have a few overs - at least 10 minimum at them today. But we are going to have 96 to get 10 wickets tomorrow."

Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo

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