Manchester: Australia batsman Marnus Labuschagne, who registered his fourth consecutive half-century in the 2019 Ashes, enjoyed the experience of batting with the ever consistent Steve Smith.
Smith and Labuschagne have been Australia's most consistent batsmen in the series by some distance. While Smith has compiled 438 runs at a staggering average of 146 until the completion of the first day's play in Manchester, Labuschagne, who came in as a concussion replacement after Smith was hit by a vicious Jofra Archer bouncer in the second Test at Lord's, has top scored for Australia on each occasion since.
Labuschagne, who added 116 runs with Smith to guide his team to a position of strength on Wednesday, described batting with the top ranked batsman in the MRF Tyres ICC Test Rankings as "good fun".
"It was good to spend some time with him and a good experience to see how he goes about it and also learn from him out there," he said after play. "What makes him the best in the world is that he's always one step ahead and thinking ahead and not being reactive. He's being proactive, which makes him very hard to bowl to."
Apart from the rain delays, the strong wind at Old Trafford made it difficult for the players, as food packets from the crowd blew onto the field and bails came off frequently ? they were completely removed by the umpires at one stage. Despite the distractions, Labuschagne, batting at No.3 for the first time in the series, scored a patient 67 during his three-hour stay at the crease, an ICC report said.
"Today the conditions, the wind, it was tough to get used to it and get consistent with your movements because it was so windy and there were so many distractions around the ground," the 25-year-old said.
"It was probably frustrating for everyone, because the one where I pulled away I thought the bails fell off, so I looked back and the bails were still on. Then I had to pull away when the chip packets kept coming past and the beach ball," he said.
"When the umpires put the bails on you could just see the stumps shake and it was just a matter of time before they came off. It was very windy out there. I've never played a game where you've played with no bails, so that was very different. All in all, it was pretty tough conditions for bowling out there," Labuschagne said.
His innings was finally cut short by Craig Overton, whose perfect in-swinger hit the top of off to give England a much needed breakthrough.
"It was a nice ball," Labuschagne acknowledged Overton's skills. "It hit the seam and just kept going with the seam. He was swinging the ball away most of the time, he bowled a few that angled in and hit the seam. It was a good piece of bowling. I need to make sure I'm ready and able to keep those out."
Smith finished the day unbeaten on 60, and it was his 116-run partnership with Labuschagne who hit 67 ? that helped Australia close the day on a healthy-looking 170/3.(UNI)