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'I know where I am; I'm on zero and it was a fast bouncer' - Labuschagne

Having stepped in as Test cricket's first concussion substitute, the 25-year-old struck a gritty 59 after himself copping a Jofra Archer bouncer second ball

"You're damn right, I know where I am! I'm in Madison Square Garden getting the s*** kicked out of me!" As he faced a concussion test after being struck second ball by Jofra Archer at Lord's, Marnus Labuschagne came close to echoing the words of the former light heavyweight boxing champion Willie Pastrano when a doctor asked him if he knew where he was in the middle of a fight.
The way Labuschagne bounced immediately back up from the blow, punching his gloves together as Archer checked on him, was an unwitting prelude to the main act: a highly organised, brave, and alert 59 that ensured Australia's safety from defeat. But facing the same process that had ended in ruling Steven Smith out of the Test - meaning Labuschagne became the first concussion substitute in Test cricket - he was just hoping to get on with things.
"You kind of just want to stay calm and make sure you answer his questions properly," Labuschagne said. "I was like, 'I know where I am; I'm good, I'm good, just get off the field', but there's a process now. There is no way I wanted to get off the field. I wanted to stay in the contest. Getting to play at Lord's is a pretty great experience.
"In my case, I was lucky enough. I was feeling fine - I just jumped the gun a bit on the questions. I was like, 'Look, I know where I am; I know what Test it is; I'm on zero, and it was a fast bouncer'. You just want to make sure you're ready, that you listen to and follow their instructions - [that] is the key. Ninety-eight percent of the time they're going to make great decisions and, if you have to come off, it's obviously because you're not all right."
Never far from being completely wired for cricket, Labuschagne's mind started to race in the direction of his involvement in the Lord's Test in the aftermath of Smith's grievous blow to the neck, which saw him temporarily taken off the field and then briefly returning to finish his innings of 92. Then it was in warm-ups before play when, during a nets session against Australia's pacemen, Labuschagne was informed by captain Tim Paine that he would be required to step in.
"You just want to be ready because especially with the new rule - it brings it [substitution of a concussed player] into play," he said. "One minute, you're hitting balls in the nets [and] then all of a sudden you're playing; it can happen very quickly. Personally, being out there is probably less nerve-racking than being off the field. When he got hit, I had a bit of a sick feeling; you're kind of helpless. But when you're out there, you're in the contest and the adrenaline is rushing - pretty much all you're doing is trying to watch that ball.
"But when you're off field and your hands are kind of tied - it does - it's a little bit of a shock to the system. But when you're out there, it's all guns blazing - just watching the ball as hard as you can. Yesterday, when it happened, you sort of kind of put the pieces together and go, 'Well, if this does unfold and he's not all right, then I'm potentially the like-for-like [replacement]'.
"But it was this morning, we were actually having a training session facing [Mitchell] Starc and Patto [James Pattinson] in the nets. I was batting there for a bit, and I think Painey walked down and he kind of looked at me and said, 'You're in, mate'. I was like, 'Righto'. I still finished my net, had a few more balls, and then walked out and said, 'Righto, now it's time to focus'."
That focus was swiftly applied when Labuschagne walked to the wicket after the fall of his state captain Usman Khawaja, with Archer in the midst of yet another fiery spell, soon to strike Labuschagne on a Lord's surface where variable bounce conspired with the ground's slope to see many batsmen hit. "I think what it does do is it makes you on," Labuschagne said. "It means there is no mucking around. You're watching the ball and you're trying to work as hard as you can to see that ball as early as you can.
"That's the benefit of facing someone that fast in your sort of first few balls. Then it's just about making sure you stick to your processes and your plans that you've got. [The bouncer] got me flush, but it was just, 'Get up and get on with it'. It got me quite flush in the grill so it took most of the blow. You get up and try and act cool. Then it was just about trying to refocus and make sure you're watching that ball again. I watched that one pretty close.
"I think the pitch did have a bit to do with it. The ball wasn't sort of kissing upwards when he was bowling shorter, so the trajectory was a bit flatter, which makes it harder to get out of the way of the short balls. It may be a thing for the rest of the series, but it's our job as batters: we've got to find a way to score off those balls or get out of the way."
There was to be controversy when Labuschagne's stay ended, deemed to have been out to a low catch from England's captain Joe Root that looked to have hit hands and grass at about the same time. Labuschagne, watching replays as the third umpire Joel Wilson deliberated, initially thought he would get a reprieve.
"The decision was final obviously," he said. "As a fielder, sometimes you feel like you've caught it and that may have been the case. But, definitely, when I saw it on replay I was like, 'It looks like it bounced, but I'm not an umpiring professional so we'll leave it to them'. I'm just disappointed to get out that way to put us under a little bit of pressure. So that was disappointing from my end."
Nevertheless, the goal of a stalemate was eventually reached in fading light, and Labuschagne's toughness and presence of mind - even when facing the concussion test - were critical to the outcome. Having previously stated how much he enjoys watching old Ashes matches on YouTube, Labuschagne has added one of his own performances to the rich history of contests.
"It's obviously different when you're watching, because you're watching it sometimes with a different view," he said. "But when you're actually in it - it's more the adrenaline, the rush, the getting in the game. Look, I loved it out there. It was a great experience, great fun. But, more importantly, it's a draw and that means we're one win away."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig