“Absolutely not under threat…”: Skipper Cummins on Labuschagne’s position following poor scores

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Wellington [New Zealand]: Following his side’s 172-run win over New Zealand, Australian skipper Pat Cummins said that batter Marnus Labuschagne’s position in the playing eleven is not under threat despite a recent run of low scores.

Australia’s spin wizard Nathan Lyon dashed New Zealand’s hopes early in the fourth day by taking ten wickets in the match, helping visitors claim a 172-run victory in the first Test at the Basin Reserve. The Aussies are 1-0 in the two-match series.

Labuschagne’s run of poor scores continued as he scored one and two runs in both innings respectively. He started the year with two fifties against Pakistan in the Sydney Test, but since then has struggled to score runs. In four Tests this year, he has scored 144 runs at an average of 24.00, with the best of 62*.

Even the last year was tough for Marnus in the longer format, scoring 803 runs in 13 Tests and 25 innings at an average of 34.91, with a century and four half-centuries. His best score is 111. Since his last Test century in July last year against England, Labuschagne has scored just 251 runs in seven Tests at a poor average of 20.91, with three half-centuries in 14 innings. His best score is 63.

Speaking at the press conference after the match, Cummins said that Marnus himself would admit that he would like to score more and his lack of runs does not come down to lack of practice time.

“Absolutely not, (on Marnus’s position being under threat). He would be the first to admit he would like to score some more runs, and it is not through a lack of trying in the nets. Particularly in the second innings, it was just one of those down leg. We are very clear that these six guys are the best six batters in Australia. Although at times it might not have clicked all at once, the story of our team has been someone’s been able to stand up when they need to. Everyone’s going well,” Cummins said.

Skipper Cummins also lauded veteran spinner Nathan Lyon, who took a ten-wicket haul in the game including a six-wicket haul in the second innings, calling his bowling a “captain’s dream”.

“It is the captain’s dream. There is a real sense of calm out there when you know you have got someone that good on a wicket that is giving him a little bit of help. It is fun really. You can get creative with some of the field placements, knowing he is going to land it exactly where you want it to be. I thought he was brilliant over the last couple of days, bouncing through a few different plans, but it just always felt like he was in control,” Cummins said.

He also said that he would love to see Lyon to continue playing the longer format till 2027 and revealed that he told the spinner that on the day he retires, he will give up his captaincy as well.

“It is huge, I would love for him to keep going until 2027. The only barrier is his body. If he looks after his body and makes sure he is right for ten Test matches a year, I would absolutely love for him to keep playing until 2027, and I do not think there is much getting in his way. I already told him today, the day he retires, I am definitely giving up the captaincy, because it makes my life a hell of a lot easier,” Cummins added.

Coming to the first Test, NZ was set 369 runs to win the Test. Reduced to 59/3 at once, Kiwis fought back with the help of a fifty from Rachin Ravindra (59 in 105 balls, with eight fours and a six) and his 67-run knock with Daryl Mitchell (38 in 130 balls, with two fours). But Nathan Lyon ran through the middle order and lower order, bundling out Kiwis for just 196 runs. Lyon took 6/65 while Josh Hazlewood got two wickets. Travis Head and Green got a wicket each.

In their second innings, Australia took a 368-run lead and was bundled out for 164. Besides Lyon, who was surprisingly the top-scorer with 41 runs, Cameron Green (34), Travis Head (29) and Usman Khawaja (28) posted decent scores. Glenn Phillips (5/45) was the pick of the bowlers for the Kiwis. Matt Henry (3/36) and Tim Southee (2/46) were also among the wickets.

Australia earlier had a 204-run lead in the first innings, bundling out Kiwis for 179 in their first innings. Kiwis were struggling at 29/5 at one point, but a fighting effort from middle/lower order, Phillips (71 in 70 balls, with 13 fours), Matt Henry (42 in 34 balls, with three fours and four sixes) and wicketkeeper-batter Tom Blundell (33 in 43 balls, with three fours) helped Kiwis give Aussies a fight.

Nathan Lyon (4/43) was the pick of the bowlers for the Aussies. Josh Hazlewood took two wickets while skipper Pat Cummins, Mitchell Marsh and Mitchell Starc got a wicket each. Put to bat first after the Kiwis won the toss, Australia was once reeling at 211/7, but a fantastic knock from all-rounder Cameron Green (174* in 275 balls, with 23 fours and five fours) and his 116-run tenth wicket partnership with Josh Hazlewood (22) helped Australia score 383.

Henry (5/70) registered a five-wicket haul for Kiwis. William O’Rourke and Scott Kuggeleijn also took two wickets for Kiwis. Green was given the ‘Player of the Match’ award for his all-round performance in the game.

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