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Warne hand in Labuschagne’s game-changing over
If it was Shane Warne who broke the hearts of England cricket for 14 years, it was another leg-spinner who delivered the last blow in Australia’s Ashes-sealing victory on Sunday.
With England wickets eight down and just over an hour away from pulling off a dramatic draw to keep the series alive, Australia captain Tim Paine threw the ball to part-time leggie Marnus Labuschagne, who delivered with the wicket of tail-ender Jack Leach from his fifth ball.
Operating from round the wicket, Labuschagne tossed up a leg-break into the rough outside the left-hander’s off-stump, which gripped, spun and bounced into Leach’s fending glove and into the safe hands of Matthew Wade at short leg. Ten balls later, the match was over, and the Ashes were retained by Australia.
It’s been 12 years since Warne last caused havoc against England, but the legendary leg-spinner played a part in another Ashes win having spent half an hour working with Labuschagne on the morning of day two in the middle of Old Trafford, the venue where the spin king bowled his famous ‘Ball of the Century’.
In that brief session, Warne and Labuschagne talked technique and tactics, including the precious nugget that helped the Queenslander deliver the crucial wicket his side needed on Sunday.
“With Warney, we were just working on coming wider on the run up to give myself a better angle at the rough,” Labuschagne told Wide World of Sports after Australia’s 185-run win. “I dragged the ball before down and I was just like ‘just trust it, trust it’. It seemed to work out perfectly.”
It has been a wild ride for Labuschagne, who had it not been for Steve Smith suffering a concussion in the second Test at Lord’s might not have featured in the Ashes at all.
The 25-year-old became international cricket’s first concussion substitute when he replaced Smith on the final day at Lord’s following the sickening blow from a Jofra Archer bouncer that collected the former captain in the back of the neck.
Labuschagne made 59 on day five at St John’s Wood and was retained for the third Test at Headingley, where he posted scores of 74 and 80 in the thrilling one-wicket loss.
With Smith returning for the fourth Test, Labuschagne was bumped up to No.3 and made the most of his promotion, scoring 67 in the first innings, his fourth consecutive half-century.
Paine’s decision to throw Labuschagne the ball late on Sunday with overs and natural light fading fast may have appeared to be a gamble, but the skipper knows what the enthusiastic rookie can do with the ball having captained him in his Test debut in Dubai last year.
Since that series against Pakistan, Labuschagne has continued to work on his leg-spin at home with Queensland and during his stint with UK county side Glamorgan, bowling 192.2 overs this English summer for 19 wickets along with scoring a Division-leading 1114 runs.
And Paine believes Labuschagne’s versatility makes him a player that future Australian teams can be built around.
“Ever since I captained him in Dubai, he has been working really hard on his leg-spin bowling,” Paine said.