Labuschagne, Khawaja steady on slow SCG track

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Marnus Labuschagne went into the Lunch break unbeaten on 30
Marnus Labuschagne went into the Lunch break unbeaten on 30 © Getty

Australia made a steady start after electing to bat in the New Year's Test with Marnus Labuschagne and Usman Khawaja stitching an unbeaten 56-run stand to offset the early loss of David Warner. At Lunch, the hosts were 68/1 with the SCG surface offering early validation for the both the teams' decision to play two spinners.

It was far from positive for Australia at the start of the session after news emerged early that Matt Renshaw, making a comeback to the Test XI after five years, had tested positive for Covid. That followed an early dismissal for Warner, who after picking up two early boundaries, slashed at a wide delivery from Anrich Nortje and was caught smartly in the slips by Marco Jansen.

Then came a period of watchful batting from Labuschagne and Khawaja, both of who went about sussing the pitch on an overcast morning in Sydney. Khawaja started off as the more active scorer. In fact, Labuschagne was on 8 off 39 deliveries before he truly got going. He short-arm pulled a ball from Nortje and then slashed away another short ball from Kagiso Rabada. The short ball was clearly not working on the slowish surface and the visitors were guilty of bowling only five deliveries that were projected to hit the stumps in the first 22 overs.

Spin made an appearance late into the session and while Khawaja got a freebie from Maharaj, Simon Harmer proved he could be quite a handful in the two overs he sent down before the interval. He spun one sharply past the left-hander's bat and then found the edge in the next over, only for it to fly past the stationed slip fielder.

The early spin promise wouldn't faze Australia at the moment. They packed their side with an extra spinner in Ashton Agar and will have the advantage of bowling last on this pitch.

Brief scores: Australia 68/1 (Marnus Labuschagne 30*, Usman Khawaja 25*; Anrich Nortje 1-17) vs South Africa