New Zealand has put the clamps on superstar Steve Smith. Pic: Getty Images
New Zealand has put the clamps on superstar Steve Smith. Pic: Getty Images

Chappell: Time to silence Bradman calls

It's hard to be joyous at the advent of a New Year or celebrate sport in a manner we're accustomed to when all around us are experiencing bushfires, carnage and tragedy.

Life must go on but not before we recognise the brave people gamely fighting the fires, the generous spirit of the volunteers and the sadness of the people who have lost so much. This was done in a respectful manner at the SCG before the two teams recommenced the Trans Tasman battle.

Unfortunately the quality of the contest was diluted by a virus that hit the New Zealand squad where it hurt most - in the batting department.

The Kiwis added to their own woes by resting successful bowler Tim Southee on the basis of workload and future commitments.

 

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New Zealand coach Gary Stead, left, talks with dumped bowler Tim Southee before play at the SCG. Pic: Photosport via AP
New Zealand coach Gary Stead, left, talks with dumped bowler Tim Southee before play at the SCG. Pic: Photosport via AP

It was reported Southee was disappointed with the decision. I'm not surprised - he's experienced enough to override medical opinion in understanding what is required to get through a five-day match.

The man who mercilessly pounded the weakened Kiwis was the ambitious and remarkably consistent Marnus Labuschagne. He announced himself with a couple of smoothly stroked boundaries and was the epitome of fluency throughout his innings. His improvement in the 12 months since he first appeared at the SCG in the No.3 position for Australia, is drastic and a deserved reward for hard work.

In converting his fourth century of this golden summer into a double ton he moved into elite territory; his 837 runs are now the top aggregate for an Australian playing at home in a five-Test summer.

In reaching such lofty heights, he passed Sir Donald Bradman and the former highest run getter in that category, the nimble left-hander Neil Harvey on 834 runs.

The other significant factor about this gifted group is they all flourished in the important No.3 slot for Australia. It's such a crucial batting spot that it's no surprise Australia has enjoyed consistent success since Labuschagne has made the position his own.

In amassing his fourth century of the summer, Labuschagne clearly outstripped the other run machine in the team, Steve Smith. By employing their sustained short-pitched tactics, New Zealand has at least succeeded in reducing Smith to a stuttering run accumulator.

 

Marnus Labuschagne has made the No.3 batting slot his own. Picture. Phil Hillyard
Marnus Labuschagne has made the No.3 batting slot his own. Picture. Phil Hillyard

 

SMITH'S FAILED MISSION

There is no fluency about his batting and all references to him being Bradmanesque should be immediately silenced.

In fact on his current showing, it's hard to even place him in the same sentence as another great Australian No.3, the prolific Ricky "Punter" Ponting.

There's no way the skilful Ponting would've allowed himself to be reduced to scrambling for runs the way Smith did in his painstaking innings and I smile at the thought of what the pugnacious "Punter" might have done with Neil Wagner's short-pitched assault.

With Australia dominating and New Zealand's batting line-up decimated, this was more than likely Smith's last chance to avoid a century drought this season. He failed in his mission when the persistent Colin de Grandhomme put an end to Smith's torture.

 

New Zealand has put the clamps on superstar Steve Smith. Pic: Getty Images
New Zealand has put the clamps on superstar Steve Smith. Pic: Getty Images

 

CLEAR AS MUD

The failure of Joe Burns at the top and Matthew Wade and Travis Head in the middle order has done nothing to help paint a clearer picture of Australia's "other" three batting positions. While the team continues to defeat the opposition in convincing fashion, there is no urgency for change. But that situation may alter when faced with a stronger opponent like India.

In the meantime, Australia continue to deal harshly with New Zealand, again sentencing them to hard labour in the field. While the New Zealand bowlers were unable to provide sustained pressure, there was enough assistance to suggest that Australia's faster and more penetrative leather flingers will enjoy a profitable existence.

The same applies to Nathan Lyon, who should pose far more problems than his counterpart Will Somerville, who was far too inconsistent with both line and length.

 

 

NOT FINISHED YET

Despite having already contributed greatly to Australia's position of strength with a double century, there's a suspicion that Labuschagne may not be finished yet. His leg-breaks could play a part, judging by the occasional turn and bounce enjoyed by leg-spinner Todd Astle.

There appears to be no end to the talents of a man who just five months ago was serving as Australia's concussion replacement batsman. Now it's Labuschagne the frontline batsman who is landing the decisive blows for Australia.

News Corp Australia

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