• Jason Regan

Labuschagne rises to No.1 in Test rankings

Marnus Labuschagne has overtaken England skipper Joe Root to become the No.1 Test batsman in the world, continuing a stunning rise after making his debut three years ago. 

Marnus Labuschagne in action against England at the Adelaide Oval. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

Root had been on top of the rankings since August and last week became just the fourth player in history to score more than 1600 Test runs in a calendar year. But Labuschagne's heroics in Adelaide, where he scored 103 and 51 to help Australia take a 2-0 lead in the Ashes, saw him leapfrog Root into the top spot.

Labuschagne now averages a stunning 62.14 from 20 Tests, with his astronomical average second only to Don Bradman (99.94). Australia vice-captain Steve Smith remains third in the Test batting rankings, while David Warner (sixth) and Travis Head (10th) are also among the elite category.

Newly-appointed skipper Pat Cummins remains the world's No.1 Test bowler, while fellow pace aces Josh Hazlewood (fifth) and Mitchell Starc (ninth) are also in the top 10.

Labuschagne can next week become just the third Australian to score centuries in every mainland state in the first three summers of their Test career. Fifteen Australians have achieved the full house, with only Mike Hussey and Smith having done so in such rapid time.

But such is Labuschagne's clear thirst for runs, a big score well beyond 100 is what he craves in a bid to bat England out of the Ashes.

"I want to score a hundred every game, but unfortunately it doesn't always work like that," Labuschagne said.
"Even though I scored some runs (in Adelaide) I was still disappointed that I didn't go on and make a really big score and really shut the game out.
"There's lots for me to learn (from Adelaide) and hopefully take it to Boxing Day and make sure that if I get to a 100 I make it a really big score."

Labuschagne expects to be the target of another bouncer barrage during the Boxing Day Test despite England's limited success with the tactic in Adelaide. England's approach has remained at the forefront of the fallout from their second-Test loss, with Root under fire for admitting his attack bowled too short and didn't change plans.

Beyond the back-of-a-length attack, England appeared to enter Adelaide with a pre-conceived plan to go short with fielders back on the pull and hook shot for Ben Stokes' bowling in particular.

The fact they did that with quick Mark Wood rested has also raised eyebrows, given he is the only man in England's attack able to bowl at above 145km/h. England's only real threat with the tactic came against Labuschagne, who gloved a short ball down legside trying to pull Stokes but was dropped by Jos Buttler.

And with Wood likely to return for the MCG Test with England 2-0 down, Labuschagne expects to again have the ball aimed at his chest with fielders back.

"The game plan almost worked," Labuschagne said.
"It's a tactic they might use a little bit more depending on if I get out early or if I stay at the crease a little bit longer."