In probably the least surprising news of the tour, both Labuschagne and Smith – the latter also having a lean opening Test – took part in a net session on Saturday that was only arranged for those who did not play at Edgbaston. Head coach Andrew McDonald had termed it an “appetising thought” that Australia had won with just 35 runs between their two best batters.
Labuschagne was back to being much stiller at the crease with only a minimal trigger compared to the more exaggerated movement seen in the first Test during a lengthy session against throwdowns from Australia’s coaches.
“It was back being normal,” batting coach Michael Di Venuto said. “I hadn’t seen what happened in the first Test, I hadn’t seen that. And it certainly didn’t happen the week before at The Oval. Whatever it was, hopefully it was brief and he can get back to normal this week.”
When asked if the frenzied atmosphere at Edgbaston could have played a part, Di Venuto added: “Potentially. Marn is the only one who could answer that. He has a few other reasons why he thinks he played at the ball which he thinks he has fixed up. As we saw today hopefully he is back on track.”
However, he said that Labuschagne’s work in the nets was not specific to facing Broad. He added that any tinkering that is made is instigated by Labuschagne in consultation with his batting coach Neil D’Costa who shares inputs with the Australia staff.
“Marnus is always working on his game,” he said. “You have all seen him train before, he is meticulous in how he goes about his preparation. He is always fidgeting around with different things technically. That is all pretty normal for Marn
“Marn is his best coach. The same as Smudge [Smith]. They are their own best coaches. They are great problem solvers, and that is why they have been such great players for Australia for a period of time.”
Labuschagne took a painful blow on the index finger of his right hand while facing throwdowns on Saturday. He stayed on the ground for some time before removing his glove and being checked by team doctor Leigh Golding but he was able to resume and completed the session.
“He’s got a finger that has copped a couple of knocks. I think he just got another one,” di Venuto said.
The second Test at Lord’s will bring Labuschagne back to the venue where his career took off in 2019 after he came in as Smith’s concussion sub. Since then he has been prolific, scoring 10 Test centuries with an average that has surpassed 60 on occasions, although he is currently in a relatively lean patch with two half-centuries, and an average of 33.14, in his last 17 innings.
Whether the dismissals to Broad are the start of a pattern for the series only time will tell, but di Venuto saw it as the challenges that Test cricket can provide.
“He is a quality bowler, and has been for a long time,” he said. “You expect bowlers to think up plans and come with different tactics to what they have in the past. It’s no different to any other series at the moment.”
Warner made 43 in the first innings against India then 36 in the second innings at Edgbaston as part of an opening stand of 61 which gave Australia a base in their chase of 281. However, in both innings he was removed from around the wicket – firstly by Broad, for the 15th time overall in Test cricket, then by Ollie Robinson.
“He is a little bit back more into the Davey we know,” di Venuto said. “Moving into the ball, lots of energy at the crease, looking to attack. Some really good signs there for him to potentially have success around the corner.”
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo