Marnus Labuschagne has left Aussie selectors with a bit of egg on their faces after producing an incredible match-winning knock as a concussion substitute in the first ODI against South Africa. Earlier this week, Labuschagne was left out of Australia's 15-man squad for next month's ODI World Cup, and wasn't selected in the XI to take on South Africa on Thursday night.
But Labuschagne was brought in as a concussion substitute when Cameron Green was struck on the helmet by Kagiso Rabada. It brought back memories of when Labuschagne replaced Steve Smith in similar circumstances during the 2019 Ashes series - a chance that Labuscagne grasped with both hands and hasn't looked back since.
'GET READY': Cricket fans react to huge news about Mitchell Starc
The Aussies slumped to 7-113 in the 17th over while chasing South Africa's total of 222 on Thursday night. But Labuschagne combined with Ashton Agar for a magnificent unbeaten eighth-wicket stand of 112 to guide the tourists to victory by three wickets. Labuschagne, who started the game on the bench, ended up man of the match for his brilliant innings of 80 not out from 93 balls.
He came to the crease when Green was struck on the helmet in the sixth over, and batted out the remainder of the innings. Labuschagne is hoping selectors will have a change of heart after leaving him out of the World Cup squad.
"When I came back from the Ashes, I had three to four weeks off, then went back to the drawing board and really thought about what I wanted to improve in my one-day game," said Labuschagne, whose average of 53.36 in Test matches dwarfs the 31.37 he had produced in ODIs before his latest knock. "That's gone really downhill and I really didn't like that.
"I've been really disappointed with the way I've played my one-day cricket the last 10 to 12 games. I haven't shown the intensity and courage that I would have liked.
"I wasn't too shocked when I was dropped, I said that to the selectors, 'I understand, I haven't made runs'. I did say I still want to be that person for you batting in the middle order. I addressed a few things that I wanted to improve on."
Labuschagne wasn't initially picked for the tour of South Africa, but received a late call-up due to a number of injuries. "The opportunity that comes when you're concussion sub is sometimes a bit of a free hit," he said.
"The pressure of the game is still there but the expectation is probably not as much on you. It was nice to contribute today even though at the start of the day I wasn't even in the side.
"You've just got to sit tight and wait for your opportunities. When the opportunity comes you've got to be ready."
Cricket world erupts over Marnus Labuschagne heroics
Labuschagne said of his partnership with Agar: "We haven't batted much together, or at all. It was a lot of fun. He's a very relaxed character and he showed great patience, great concentration and just stuck to that plan. We kept each other going to not get out of our bubble and not force it too much."
Temba Bavuma had earlier defied leg cramps and a difficult pitch to post his fifth century in one-day cricket. Bavuma made 114 not out while opening the batting, becoming just the 13th opener and second South African (after Herschelle Gibbs in 2000) to carry his bat in an ODI innings.
Josh Hazlewood (3-41) and Stoinis (2-20) were Australia's best with the ball. But it was Labuschagne who was the talk of the cricket world after the match.
Dropped from the World Cup and he has made a big statement in the first ODI vs South Africa.
- Incredible, Labuschagne. pic.twitter.com/9Pu6rkreJy
— Johns. (@CricCrazyJohns) September 7, 2023
What an amazing win it is
— Home of T20 (@HomeofT20) September 7, 2023
What a turn around. What a win! Clutch innings by Labuschagne and Agar.
— Waѕiyullah Budye (@WasiyullahB) September 7, 2023
Concussion Substitutor of the decade. 🏆 pic.twitter.com/vx1JWKaEFY
— The CrickFun (@TheCrickFun) September 7, 2023
Get him in the world Cup squad
— Simba Mukaka (@Simba_Mate_) September 7, 2023
— Hamxa 🏏🇵🇰 (@hamxashahbax21) September 7, 2023
Never in doubt... Always said that we need Labuschagne in the top 4 in the world cup. Somebody who can anchor the innings against initial movement and counter spin in the middle overs. Marsh isn't that person imo. https://t.co/inBKLYx9Ee
— Tony Stark (@TonySta13327820) September 7, 2023
Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.