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Match Analysis

Labuschagne and Brathwaite cash in on their well-deserved luck

Both batters have worked extremely hard to get where they are, and rode their good fortune to score hundreds in Perth

Alex Malcolm
Alex Malcolm
Marnus Labuschagne cashed in his luck to score a double-century and a century in the same game  •  Associated Press

Marnus Labuschagne cashed in his luck to score a double-century and a century in the same game  •  Associated Press

Nine-time golf major champion Gary Player had a mantra he lived by: "the harder you work, the luckier you get."
Former Australian coach Justin Langer loved that quote but twisted it slightly to, "the harder you work, the less likely you are to give up."
In the case of Marnus Labuschagne and Kraigg Brathwaite on day four in Perth, both sayings apply. The pair scored centuries for their respective sides but neither without a healthy dose of good fortune. But both had earned it and deserved it. They are two players who put everything into their craft and right now are seemingly getting everything they deserve in return.
Labuschagne joined an illustrious group of names by becoming the eighth man in history, and the third Australian, to score a double-century and a century in the same Test.
But he had help from West Indies' fielders and bowlers in both innings. He was missed several times in the first innings. In the second, he was caught off the top edge for 19 in the midst of a quick and hostile spell from Alzarri Joseph. The ball before he had top-edged for six over the keeper's head; the next flew straight up to gully. But Labuschagne, after being caught, had taken 10 steps off the square towards the rooms before being recalled as the replay showed Joseph had overstepped.
"I've certainly had the rub of the green on many occasions of late," Labuschagne said. "I think it sort of comes in waves. There's definitely times there when I was in Pakistan and I felt like the green was not rubbing the same way.
"I've definitely felt like [I've been lucky]. It must be all the prayers from my mum, my grandma, my family, getting all set up at once."
It turns out Labuschagne has had more than the rub of the green on occasion. According to ESPNcricinfo's ball-by-ball data, no player has had more reprieves in Test cricket since he made his Test debut in October 2018.
But it would be unfair to put all of Labuschagne's success down to pure luck. No player, aside from Steven Smith, hits more balls in the Australian team. Alongside Smith, no player thinks more deeply about his batting or strives more assiduously to get better every day to try and become the best player he possibly can be.
And no one has capitalised on his good fortune more than Labuschagne, scoring more runs after his reprieves than any other player in world cricket.
It's hard to begrudge him the rewards, given the sacrifices he is willing to make and his determination to make the most of it, even though it may have created a little jealousy in his own dressing room.
"Maybe they're a bit jealous but unfortunately I can't control who catches me, who drops me, and who bowls no balls to me," Labuschagne said. "Like I said, if I have to have the fortune, I'm happy to have it. The boys joked that I've got that little Bible verse on the bottom of my bat. They were saying maybe I got to put one on Josh's [Hazlewood] shoes tomorrow. He clipped the bail there and it didn't come off. But like I said, you're never going to complain when you've got a bit of the rub of the green. Cricket's a funny game. The tide turns very quickly and people forget about this."
Hazlewood did have the misfortune of clipping but not dislodging Brathwaite's off-bail during his sensational rearguard century that has almost single-handedly kept West Indies alive as they hope to pull off a miracle on the final day.
No one can begrudge Brathwaite that fortune either, because he is among the players with the lowest percentage of catching let-offs since Labuschagne's debut five years ago.
Brathwaite didn't give any catching chances in this innings, playing exceptionally straight while scoring at an excellent rate against an outstanding attack. But he was grateful the bail didn't fall when Hazlewood's delivery nicked it.
"I saw it on the big screen," Brathwaite said. "I was just thankful for that luck. You always need a bit of luck playing cricket."
He richly deserves it as he continues to mount an outstanding Test career in an unassuming manner. His style is far less eye-catching than that of Labuschagne, but his returns are no less significant. Brathwaite's 11 Test centuries are the only Test centuries scored by West Indies openers since March 2013. He has been a one-man bedrock in the constantly shifting world of West Indies cricket. He now has away Test hundreds in Perth, Leeds, Sharjah, and Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) against some of the greatest bowling attacks of his generation. The previous three resulted in two wins and a draw for West Indies against the odds on each occasion.
The second day in Perth was Brathwaite's 30th birthday. West Indies had been pasted for 598, but he had taken two wickets and then batted two hours to reach stumps safely in the first innings on his way to top-scoring with 64. His team bought him a cheesecake for his birthday.
To save this game he will need more of the rub of the green on the final day. And he'll deserve more than a cheesecake from his team if he doesn't already.

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo