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Labuschagne: Personal performances 'nice' but winning games 'the most enjoyable part'

He currently has the highest average of all male Test players behind Bradman, following his sixth century in 19 games

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
17-Dec-2021
Marnus Labuschagne celebrates his sixth Test century  •  CA/Cricket Australia/Getty Images)

Marnus Labuschagne celebrates his sixth Test century  •  CA/Cricket Australia/Getty Images)

The 'best since Bradman' is a title handed to a number of players over the years. By one measurement, that accolade now sits with Marnus Labuschagne after his maiden Ashes hundred which set up Australia's commanding position in Adelaide.
Labuschagne currently has the second-highest average (with a 20-innings cut-off) of all male Test cricketers behind the immortal 99.94 figure. He moved up two places during this innings in what is an all-Australia top four with Adam Voges' brief but prolific career placing him at No. 3 and then Steven Smith, whose average has previously peaked at 64.81, in fourth. As an aside, his batting average in the first innings of Tests since his recall in the 2019 Ashes is 102.00.
"That's the first I've heard of it," Labuschagne said. "It's a special feeling, but Bradman's done and a couple of nicks and you right back down the pecking order. You can't really think like that. I just think of trying to score as many runs as possible each innings to put us in positions to win games. The personal performances and accolades are nice but winning games is by far the most enjoyable part."
He had to work for every one of his 103 runs and was dropped twice on 21 and 95 by Jos Buttler. The five more he needed for three figures did not come easily on the second morning before a controlled edge wide of second slip reached the boundary. Coming from 287 balls, it was the slowest Test century for Australia since Jason Gillespie's famous nightwatchman effort against Bangladesh in 2006.
When he was given another life courtesy of Ollie Robinson's no-ball as he edged to Buttler you wondered if he would turn it into a monster century, but Robinson trapped him lbw without offering a shot - something of a surprise given he had left so well during his innings.
"Think it's always a part of the game I've had, leaving the ball, that decision-making around off stump. In particular the majority of this innings I felt I left the ball quite well. I never really felt in, it was one of those wickets [where] you always felt like you were grinding away. Never felt like any of the runs I was making were easy."
While boosting his career figure, the century also enhanced a magnificent record against the pink-ball which has brought him three centuries with an average of 84.57 but he was adamant that it is a tougher version of the Test game for batters.
"If anything it's harder," he said. "It's harder to get a rhythm with the pink ball and every game is so different. We played against Pakistan and the wicket had a bit less grass so it was a bit flatter, played here last summer against India and it was quite two-paced. Then this game, there's a bit more grass and it felt like it was seaming all day when they put the ball in the right area. You didn't know where your run was going to come from."

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo