There has been plenty of reflection lately on where Australian cricket has come in the last 12 months. In many ways, the story can be told through Marnus Labuschagne. A year ago, there was shock when he was recalled to bat No. 3 in the final Test against India at the SCG. Now it's a shock if he doesn't score runs there.
David Warner may have been the headline figure from Australia's batting summer with his unbeaten 335 in Adelaide, but Labuschagne has been, without doubt, the batting star. When he tucked Colin de Grandhomme off his pads for his eighth four it brought up his fourth century of the season.
It has been a performance to put him in rare company. He joined a collection of Australia batsmen who have four hundreds in a season with only Ricky Ponting's five in 2005-06 ahead of him.
While Labuschagne always had confidence in his ability, he admitted the success - which has really come in the last five months since the Ashes - would have been hard to take for real if put to him a year ago. "I probably wouldn't have believed you, it has been a real amazing year and I definitely don't take it for granted," he said. "For me it's about trying to ride the wave as long as I can, keep things quite level. It's easy to get real up when you are going well, so it's about making it an even keel."
"I haven't really had time to sit down and think about how the whole year has unfolded; it's been pretty special. Last time this year, yes I was sitting here, and there were a lot of questions. I'm thankful for the opportunity, and scoring runs is always nice; I never take it for granted, though, because it can turn very quickly."
Rewind a year and for all the surprise at Labuschagne being at first drop he shaped up promisingly as he made 38 in the face of India's mammoth total. He moved back down the order in the next Test, against Sri Lanka at the Gabba, and scored a maiden Test half-century, with his 81 helping secure a comfortable victory.
What happened after that, which has led to this point in his career, has been well-documented with the stint at Glamorgan in county cricket helping hone his technique and then a dramatic jettisoning into the Test side when Steven Smith was concussed at Lord's. When Smith returned, Labuschagne had already made himself a fixture but the only spot available became No. 3. He has now made it his own.
When Australia Test captain Tim Paine was asked on the eve of the Test whether he believed things would pan out this way, he had said, "probably not this quickly."
Australia never found a stable batting order in the year-long absence of Smith and David Warner, then it took a while to get things right when they returned, but some of the foundations were put in place during that difficult period.
ALSO READ: Smith earns his runs in Labuschagne's summer
"The reason he was picked, Greg Chappell in particular saw he had some talent in him," Paine recalled. "JL (Justin Langer) has always been really big on character and the people we have in the team. While Marnus wasn't scoring the runs, we thought he could in Shield cricket, he ticked every other box. There was an opportunity there over that year to blood some young players who we thought could be the future.
"Marnus in particular, to go and play county cricket last year, pile on some runs, again he has worked his backside off. He deserves everything he is getting at the moment. The more time he spends with Smithy and Davey he seems to be getting better."
Labuschagne was unaware of the high-level support behind him, which initially helped him get a place on the trip to face Pakistan in the UAE. "Those conversations must be going on in the background because I didn't know any of these, but you do need people in your corner as you push and try to come through," he said. "It's great to hear someone of that calibre had my back. At the end of the day there's no other currency than runs. You can have a good technique but unless you are putting big scores on the board, eventually it doesn't matter."
By stumps on the opening day in Sydney, Labuschagne's Test average stood at 62.61. Smith's was 62.84 as he hit his career mark in a hard-working innings. "I don't think it's even a comparison," Labuschagne said. "For a person to perform over a summer - or a year - to comparing that to a guy who has been at the top of his game for eight years - that's something that I aspire to."