Labuschagne vows Australia ‘won’t give England a sniff’ on final day

Australia's Marnus Labuschagne celebrates reaching 100 on day four of the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford cricket ground in Manchester, England on 22 July 2023AFP

Marnus Labuschagne insisted Australia had no plans to “give England a sniff” after his century frustrated the hosts’ bid for an Ashes-levelling win in the fourth Test at Old Trafford on Saturday.

England dominated the first three days in Manchester, piling up 592 in their first innings, with opener Zak Crawley making 189 and Jonny Bairstow a dashing 99 not out.

But come the end of Saturday’s rain-marred fourth day, where only 30 overs were possible, Australia were 214-5 in their second innings, a deficit of 61 runs.

Australia's Marnus Labuschagne hits a six off the bowling of England's Joe Root

Labuschagne was the only wicket to fall on Saturday but not before the top-order batsman had made 111 – just his second Test century outside Australia and his highest overseas score at this level.

Together with Mitchell Marsh (31 not out) he shared a stand of 103 that added to the frustrations of an England side who, at 2-1 down with two to play, must win in Manchester if they are to maintain their bid to regain the Ashes.

Labuschagne eventually fell when caught behind off Joe Root’s occasional off-spin after England captain Ben Stokes had been told by the umpires he could not deploy his quicks due to fading light.

The 29-year-old had been struggling for runs prior to this match but Saturday’s hundred, his 11th in 42 Tests, followed his 51 in Australia’s first innings.

“I feel like my game is in a really good space now,” said Labuschagne.

“Coming into this game I was confident about my technique and how I was batting. I was able to be confident and go back to my strengths, forcing their hand to bowl a lot of balls at me and take time out of the game.”

‘Golden arm’

More rain is forecast for Sunday’s final day at Old Trafford and a draw would mean Australia, as the holders, retained the Ashes regardless of the result in the fifth and final Test at the Oval next week.

Labuschagne dismissed suggestions World Test Champions Australia’s ambitions in Manchester could extend to taking the lead and then trying to bowl England out by saying: “I think we’re just going to let it play out, get bowled out when we do. I don’t think we’re going to give England a sniff...that’s exactly what they’d like.”

England's Joe Root celebrates after taking the wicket of Australia's Marnus Labuschagne

Meanwhile, England batting coach Marcus Trescothick hailed Root’s bowling for keeping the hosts in with a chance of forcing a win.

“Joe’s a little bit of a golden arm, isn’t he? He just finds a way...He bowls the odd delivery that really surprises people,” said Trescothick of the star batsman’s off-breaks.

As for any part the weather might play on Sunday, former England opener Trescothick, a 2005 Ashes-winner, said: “Everyone’s got a different (weather app) on their phones, lots of different ones on computers knocking around and unfortunately, they’re all pretty much saying the same thing at the moment: rain.

“We’ll wait and see. Any opportunity that we can get out in the middle tomorrow (Sunday) we will be grabbing with both hands.”