Marnus Labuschagne notched up his maiden double ton but New Zealand's openers showed some fight in the Sydney Test. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Marnus Labuschagne's average ever since he was used as the first concussion substitute in Test cricket has been close to 90. After Steve Smith was laid low with a concussion due to a bouncer from Jofra Archer, Labuschagne has stepped up to the plate and played admirably by scoring four centuries in five Tests. After finishing the year as the leading run-getter for Australia in Tests last year, Labuschagne enhanced his reputation by slamming his maiden double ton on day 2 of the Sydney Test between Australia and New Zealand. However, the Kiwi opening pair of Tom Blundell and Tom Latham fought on and ensured New Zealand did not lose a wicket at the end.
The day, though, belonged to Labuschagne as he continued to pile on the runs. Matthew Wade was out in the day's first over, bowled off-stump while attempting to sweep off-spinner Will Somerville for no addition to his overnight score of 22. Melbourne centurion Travis Head fell to Matt Henry, cutting too close to his body and snicking to wicketkeeper BJ Watling. The Kiwi bowlers had strangled his scoring shots and his 10 runs came off 42 balls. Matt Henry was bowling despite fracturing his left thumb on Friday. He had the injury strapped and placed in a splint to continue on playing.
At the other end, the right-handed Labuschagne was going well but he faced a couple of dodgy moments as he was stuck on 199 for 20 minutes. However, he thick edged Colin de Grandhomme through the vacant slips to the ropes to bring up his double ton. The milestone came off 363 balls with 19 fours and a six and eclipsed his previous Test record of 185 against Pakistan in Brisbane last November. "They batted really well to finish the day off. I thought we bowled really well. The wicket looks like it's going to go a little up and down and spin a bit but we stuck to our guns there and hopefully the rewards will come tomorrow. It's always a privilege to play for Australia and it was nice to get some runs today and when you're batting well it's nice if you can make them count," Labuschagne said on getting to the landmark.
Labuschagne's prodigious form has notched him a total of 837 runs since November and he has now leapfrogged the great Neil Harvey (834) for most runs scored by an Australian during a five-Test summer. He was also Test cricket's leading run-getter last year with 1,104 runs. The Kiwis finally dispatched him after he was caught and bowled by leg-spinner Todd Astle. Skipper Tim Paine supported Labuschagne to reach his double century before he was bowled between his bat and pad by de Grandhomme for 35.
Wickets tumbled quickly just before tea with James Pattinson bowled by Neil Wagner for two, Pat Cummins caught off Astle's bowling for eight and Mitchell Starc hitting a breezy 22 off 21 balls before he was bowled by Wagner, who finished with three for 66 as Australia finished on 454.
In response, the Blackcaps grittily batted through the final session without losing a wicket, leaving skipper Tom Latham on 26 and Melbourne Test centurion Tom Blundell at 34 in their team's total of 63. There were a couple of close calls -- notably a leg before wicket appeal off Nathan Lyon and a possible edge off Pat Cummins -- but the Kiwis showed plenty of fight after enduring five tough sessions in the field in sapping heat.