Labuschagne-Khawaja century stand sets Australia rolling

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The Aussie duo hit a fifty each
The Aussie duo hit a fifty each © AFP

Bad light reduced the second session of the opening day of the SCG Test to just 15 overs but that was enough for Marnus Labuschagne and Usman Khawaja to keep Australia purring along. Both batters passed 50 and added 70 runs in a frenetic, but short, period of batting to take the total to 138/1.

On evidence of the final moments of the opening session, spin was expected to play an important role in the remainder of the day as well as this Test match. One ball into the session, Simon Harmer got an LBW decision in his favour when Khawaja attempted a reverse sweep. The left-hander though had that decision reversed having managed to glove the ball on its way to the pads. That was about the last time Australia allowed spin to have a say in the session.

Labuschagne in particular, was exemplary with his footwork to put the spin pair of Harmer and Keshav Maharaj off their game. Maharaj was reserved for special treatment as the top-ranked Test batter began sweeping him off the stumps. Labuschagne hit six boundaries in the first eight overs post Lunch, racing away to a half-century off 102 balls. Khawaja was industrious, if not as adventurous, and helped himself to a half-century with a cut shot off Kagiso Rabada.

South Africa appeared to have broken the stand when Marco Jansen had Labuschagne nicking a wide delivery to slip when on 70. The third umpire however overruled the on-field soft signal to reprieve Australia's No.3, much to South Africa's chargin who felt that video evidence wasn't conclusive enough to warrant a change of decision.

Play was suspended soon after, post the Drinks interval, after South Africa opted against bowling spin under deteriorating light conditions forcing umpires to take the players out for an early Tea break.

Earlier in the day, Australia elected to bat and saw their Player of the Match from Melbourne, David Warner, nicking an Anrich Nortje delivery to first slip. The hosts, who also have the returning Matt Renshaw testing positive for Covid, hold the advantage of bowling last on a surface that is expected to progressively aid spin, as evidenced by both teams picking an extra spinner in their XIs.

Brief scores: Australia 138/1 (Marnus Labuschagne 73*, Usman Khawaja 51*; Anrich Nortje 1-20) vs South Africa