PERTH: Marnus Labuschagne cracked a masterful unbeaten 154 while Usman Khawaja and Steve Smith hit 50s as a dominant Australia took control of the opening Test against the West Indies at Perth Stadium on Wednesday. The hosts reached an ominous 293-2 at stumps on day one following captain Pat Cummins’ decision to bat in hot and dry conditions.
The total was built off the back of a 142-run stand between Labuschagne and Khawaja, who came together after David Warner was out for five, then an unbeaten 142 with Smith. A focused Labuschagne, who survived chances on 75 and 137, brought up his eighth century in his 29th Test and with the in-form Smith unbeaten on 59 the omens are not good for the visitors, who have failed to win a Test in Australia for 25 years.
“When you finish the day at around 300 for 2, you feel good. It was nice to build partnerships throughout the day,” said Labuschagne. “Scoring a Test hundred any time is amazing, so to be able to do it in the first Test of the summer can hopefully set you up for this game, and also the summer. “It was all about the process, build your whole game around it and don’t worry about anything else,” he added.
The West Indies bowled with plenty of discipline in front of just 10,929 spectators, but the chances were few and far between. After getting the early wicket of Warner for five, they had to toil for hours in the heat to bag another, with Khawaja compiling 65 before edging Kyle Mayers to wicketkeeper Joshua Da Silva just before lunch. “We bowled well in spurts, but we didn’t get the breaks,” said West Indies coach Phil Simmons.
“We’ll look to get a couple of wickets early tomorrow and try and peg them back that way. Even if they get 450 we’re still in it because I think the wicket looks like it can get better.” Labuschagne and Khawaja came together after Warner fell to young paceman Jayden Seales, and hardly put a foot wrong. They had to work hard in the opening session of the first Test between the sides for nearly seven years, reaching 72-1 at lunch. But they accelerated after the break with Labuschagne bringing up his 50 with a three off Jason Holder.
A faultless Khawaja, who has been a rock at the top of the order this year, soon followed, cracking spinner Roston Chase for four and then a single to reach his 18th half-century in his 52nd Test. Khawaja had scored four Test centuries and reached the 90s twice in the last 12 months, with more glory beckoning. But he was undone by a beautiful delivery from Mayers, which trimmed the outside edge of his bat and was an easy take for Da Silva. Undeterred, Labuschagne powered to three figures from 192 balls, hitting the milestone with his 13th boundary.
Smith has reverted to a more orthodox batting style which saw him score 94 and an unbeaten 80 in Australia’s recent one-day series against England, and he again looked in good nick. The 33-year-old was untroubled as he swept to a 37th Test 50, eyeing another century to draw level with the great Donald Bradman on 29. Wearing black armbands to mourn former West Indies wicketkeeper David Murray, who died last week, the visitors kept Warner and Khawaja in check in the opening overs. Warner’s first attacking shot saw Seales pulled for a boundary in the fourth over.
But the left-hander’s aggression cost him next ball as tried to drive a wider delivery only to drag it back onto his stumps. The West Indies suffered a blow before the match with allrounder Raymon Reifer ruled out after picking up a groin injury. They handed a debut to batsman Tagenarine Chanderpaul, the son of retired great Shivnarine. Top-ranked Australia made just one change from their last Test against Sri Lanka in July, with speedster Josh Hazlewood in for spinner Mitchell Swepson. – AFP