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Labuschagne: Nice to score runs when not absolutely feeling 100%

Optus Stadium is starting to feel like a home away from home for Australia's prolific No. 3

Alex Malcolm
Alex Malcolm
It's rare for a Queenslander to love Perth as much as Marnus Labuschagne does. But he continued his adoring relationship with Western Australia's capital and its newest cricket stadium, compiling a masterful 154 not out on day one of the opening Test against West Indies with promises of more to come.
Labuschagne has only batted three times at Perth Stadium for scores of 143, 50 against New Zealand and this currently unbeaten hundred, with the venue reminding him of his home in Brisbane.
"I love this venue," Labuschagne said. "I love playing in Perth because the conditions are so similar to Brisbane. And I've had some good success in Brisbane so it's really nice to be able to come to a ground where the characteristics of the wicket are very similar."
Labuschagne is compiling a staggering Test record at home in general. Of all the Test greats who have played 20 innings or more in Australia, only Sir Donald Bradman averages more than Labuschagne's 69.28, having scored seven of his eight Test centuries in Australia.
Having broken his overseas century duck in Sri Lanka in his last Test match in Galle in July, Labuschagne slipped back into the rhythms of Test cricket in Australia with ease.
He negotiated a tricky morning session, leaving the ball well and absorbing pressure as the West Indies quicks tested him on both the front and back foot. Having done the hard yards, he cashed in later in the day as West Indies erred full and wide and he was able to pick them off.
"Growing up playing a lot on the Gabba really helps with that because you know there's light at the end of the tunnel," Labuschagne said. "So you know you've got to put in the hard work early. Knowing the conditions, obviously playing in Brisbane with the bouncy conditions, certainly helps.
"You just let the ball go. You understand the game, the tempo isn't as fast as other venues. You're not hitting as many balls. You're letting a lot of balls go. So all those things really helped. And then to be able to then come out after lunch and after tea and be able to put the pressure on, they tried to amend their shorter length and they tried to bowl a bit fuller which created a few more scoring options for us."
Labuschagne's innings wasn't without luck. He nicked twice through the slips, with Jason Holder failing to lay a hand on one while the other flew wide of the cordon at a catchable height, and also edged Kraigg Brathwaite onto keeper Joshua Da Silva's knee with the ball ballooning over slip's head. He could have been caught at deep point late in the day with debutant Tagenarine Chanderpaul misjudging the flight in the shadows.
Luck aside, Labuschagne was pleased to iron out some of the kinks that plagued him late in last year's Ashes series at home where England's Mark Wood caused him some problems fending outside off stump.
"I certainly looked at a lot of that stuff from last summer," Labuschagne said. "It's feeling alright. I've certainly felt better. But it's nice to be scoring runs when you're not absolutely feeling 100%. Certainly my stance is probably more closed off I think from where it was last summer.
"I'm probably not as rigid as I was last summer. I feel like I'm a little bit more relaxed in my hands. So I think that's helping me on that short ball and that back-foot punch, so I don't really get stuck and then start fending the ball away from my face."
Labuschagne is loading up to add more to his tally tomorrow with a second Test double-century within reach.
"Whenever you're not out overnight on 150 the next stop is 200," he said. "So it's just going to be for me tomorrow if I'm able to stick to the process for long enough. If I do, I'm sure I'll get there. But put that out of your mind, you've got to take it ball by ball and if the 200 does come that's great, but more importantly, I'm just trying to get as many runs as we can in this first innings and put the pressure on the West Indies."

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo