Marnus Labuschagne says he is beginning to find a comfortable tempo in the number four position for Australia’s one-day side as he looks to cement a spot in the XI ahead of next year’s World Cup.
Labuschagne, who spent more than 15 months out of the ODI team before returning for Australia’s three-match series in Pakistan earlier this year, was averaging just over 22 in the format throughout 12 games this year heading into Saturday’s second Dettol ODI against England.
But after a classy 58 from 55 balls against England at the SCG on the weekend, the right-hander says his understanding of the role he holds in the side is becoming clearer.
“Personally it’s just that number four role is a bit unique, because I think the tempo of that number four is a little bit higher than that number three position,” he told reporters ahead of the third and final game of the series at the MCG on Tuesday.
“For me, it’s just about being able to read the game and trying to probably play consistently at that higher tempo.
“Then obviously understanding if the wicket is tougher to bat on then I’ve obviously got that Test gear that I can lock into and understand that a little bit of hard work here will make it more back ended.
“Especially with the amount of power and strength we have with our 5,6,7,8. If we can make sure we don’t lose wickets up front on those type of wickets then that will be my role.”
The 28-year-old’s Sydney knock saw him share in a century-stand with Steve Smith, whose 94 came at a strike-rate just above 80 – slower than his 78-ball 80 not out in the first game at the Adelaide Oval.
Labuschagne says it’s up to him to recognize each of his teammate’s tendencies in-game and that he had the backing of the coaching staff to take risks early in his innings.
“As you saw the other day, my role was to pick the tempo up and obviously Steve wasn’t going as fast and that’s where we complement each other (and have) many times,” he said.
“(Sometimes) I might be the one that’s struggling or that’s not striking as quickly and he’ll pick up the slack and vice versa. So that’s why batting is so important, especially in partnerships.
“I’ve definitely got the backing of the staff to play that way and I think it’s more on myself to take the game on early.
“I’ve obviously always been comfortable once you’re in taking the game on, but the way the one-day game is sort of molding and unfolding, you probably don’t have as much time to just sit on it.
“So you’ve just got to trust yourself a little bit more and I still think that comes with understanding risk and understanding where you can take the game on.”
That trust was on full display when Labuschagne whipped Moeen Ali over long-on just two balls into his knock on Saturday, with the top-order blink comfortable with the mindset he has adapted for the one-day game.
“I think looking for a boundary early on is really good,” he said.
“So if there’s an opportunity like the other night, where they had mid-on and mid-off up and no one out … it didn’t matter that it was my second ball that was that opportunity that came up.
“I’m glad that I just took the opportunity to take that option on … so that’s the sort of energy and confidence that I want to be displaying consistently.”
With the series wrapped up, the Aussies will be looking to for a third-straight victory on Tuesday, however Labuschagne said each game before they head to India in October for the World Cup would hold significance.
“I think we’ve spoken a lot about the importance of every game leading into the World Cup, the importance of being able to win with different teams, winning with different makeups of sides,” he said.
“It’s nice that we’re starting to do that and obviously playing two spinners the last two games, we haven’t really done that much in Australia so being able to win with that sort of team just gives us a lot of continuity.
“It helps us build towards that World Cup, it gives you a chance to experiment in other ways.
“Leading into that 50-over competition, the World Cup, we want to make sure that we’re really set on where our orders are and who’s our best players for the best positions.
“Every game is really important for everyone just keep growing in that space.”
Men’s Dettol ODI Series v England
1st ODI: Australia won by six wickets
2nd ODI: Australia won by 72 runs
Tuesday Nov 22: MCG, 2:20pm
Australia ODI squad: Pat Cummins (c), Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitchell Marsh, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, David Warner, Adam Zampa
England ODI squad: Jos Buttler (c), Moeen Ali, Sam Billings, Sam Curran, Liam Dawson, Chris Jordan, Dawid Malan, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, Phil Salt, Olly Stone, James Vince, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Luke Wood