There is no substitute for class due to Labuschagne’s issues. Reminder of the World Cup

On the eve of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup, Marnus Labuschagne provided a timely reminder to selectors with a Player of the Match performance after coming on as a substitute player during Australia’s three-wicket victory over South Africa in Bloemfontein on Thursday.

Labuschagne was unexpectedly left out of Australia’s World Cup squad earlier this month, and he only got his chance in the XI for the first ODI against South Africa when teammate Cameron Green was concussed after being hit on the helmet by Kagiso Rabada.

However, Labuschagne demonstrated his class and may have demonstrated that he is first in line should any of Australia’s batters sustain an injury prior to or during the World Cup by producing a superb unbeaten knock of 80* to lead his side to victory.

It wasn’t the first time Labuschagne had come on as a substitute player, as he did with aplomb during the second Ashes Test against England in 2019, and the 29-year-old said he always prepares for each match as if he’s going to play.

“I always pride myself on training well and making sure I’m always ready,” Labuschagne said after combining with Ashton Agar (48*) to put on 112 runs for the eighth wicket to lead Australia to victory.

“The opportunity that happens when you’re a concussion sub is sometimes a little bit of a free hit because the pressure of the game is out there, but obviously the expectation is probably not as much on you.”

While Labuschagne is still hoping to play in Australia’s World Cup campaign in India, he understands that a lack of runs in 50-over cricket forced selectors to leave him out of their initial plans.

“I’ve been really disappointed with how I’ve played my one-day cricket, the last 10 to 12 games I felt like I haven’t shown the intensity and courage that I would have liked,” Labuschagne said.

“I wasn’t surprised when I was dropped; I told the selectors, ‘I understand, I haven’t made runs.'”

“When I returned from the Ashes, I went back to the drawing board and seriously considered what I wanted to improve in my one-day game.”

Captain Temba Bavuma (114*) had earlier carried his bat to help South Africa post 222, and the hosts appeared to be in command when Australia was reduced to 113/7 in reply.

However, Labuschagne and Agar batted brilliantly to guide Australia home and give them the series lead.