Marnus Labuschagne said it was “surreal” to bat with Steve Smith after the duo frustrated England in the wind on a grim first day of the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford.
Labuschagne (67) and the returning Smith (60 not out) made half-centuries as only 44 overs were possible due to rain on a grey, cold Wednesday in Manchester.
Stuart Broad (2-35) reduced the tourists to 28-2 by removing David Warner without scoring in the first over and Marcus Harris (13), but they were 170-3 when play was abandoned due to rain.
Labuschagne made a fourth consecutive half-century since coming in as a concussion replacement for Smith at Lord’s, but Craig Overton ended a third-wicket stand of 116 by cleaning up the new number three.
Smith made up for lost time after missing England’s dramatic series-levelling win at Headingley as a result of a blow inflicted by Jofra Archer and Labuschagne relished batting with the former captain for the first time in a Test.
It’s been a rainy day in Manchester, and Australia finish it on 170/3.
— ICC (@ICC) September 4, 2019
“I did think it was a bit surreal I had Steve Smith alongside me. It was great, I love talking to him about the game and learning off him, with that experience of a great player.” said Labuschagne.
He added: “Personally I think it’s been a pretty good day for us. I think it was tough conditions for everything, to get momentum with bat and ball.
“I think three for 170 is a good day. We wanted to make sure we were disciplined and stayed in because it can turn very quickly out there, as we saw when Overton bowled a very nice spell.”
It was not only batting with Smith for the first time in the longest format that Labuschagne experienced, as he guarded stumps without bails due as strong gusts wreaked havoc.
He said: “When they put the bails on you could see the stumps were shaking, it was just a matter of time before they came off. It was very windy out there, I’ve never played a game with no bails, so that was very different.
“All in all it was pretty tough conditions for bowling.”