An extraordinary juggling catch at short leg by Marnus Labuschagne recalled classic efforts by Mark Taylor and David Boon while setting the scene for a dominant morning for Australia in the second Test against Pakistan at Abu Dhabi.
The Test was only three overs old when Mohammad Hafeez flicked a straight delivery from Mitchell Starc in Labuschagne’s direction, whereupon the two-Test old batsman juggled the ball off hands, body and knee, before ultimately clasping the chance to his chest.
“Starc to Mohammad Hafeez, OUT, Caught at short leg! Incredible catch! They are going upstairs to check the catch. It was full swinging into the pads, he clipped it firmly off the bat straight to Labuschagne at short leg, it hit him in the inner thigh, dropped onto his right knee as he folded down, it bobbled into the calf, he scooped it up with his right hand and it stopped between his legs as he rolled onto his back! What a catch!”
In claiming the catch, Labuschagne drew comparisons with a famous take by Taylor at slip against West Indies in 1996 at the SCG, where Carl Hooper’s outside edge from the bowling of Michael Bevan hit the then-Australian captain’s hands and floppy hat as he fell backwards, before he kicked the rebound up with his right boot to claim the catch.
Another effort, also at the SCG, included Boon’s juggle, when standing fractionally back from the bat of Mohammed Azharuddin in 1992, he knocked the ball up with his left hand before claiming it with both. Labuschagne’s first moment in Test cricket was as a substitute fielder at the Gabba in 2014, where he took a diving chance off Nathan Lyon against India.
While Labuschagne would later drop a more straightforward chance at midwicket off the bowling of Jon Holland, he claimed another chance at short leg amid Lyon’s shattering spell of four wickets in six balls to tilt the Test decidedly towards Australia on what appears to be a decent surface for batting.
Nathan Lyon, among the first to rush in and celebrate the catch with Labuschagne, related the humorous tale of the fielder trying to say he meant to catch it the way he did. “I was at point. That’s one of those ones that can change a game,” Lyon said. “But I just love the way he told me that he went with the catch without realising that it hit him before he moved. It’s one of those things, it just happens.
“You don’t train for those. Sorry Marnus, but you don’t train for them. He’ll tell you that he knew what he was doing, but it hit him in the groin and just got stuck between his legs, so Mohammad Hafeez is very unlucky.”
More praise came Labuschange’s way for how his hustling wrist spin was utilised to claim three wickets, after Sarfraz Ahmed and the debutant Fakhar Zaman had built a fine, counterattacking partnership. “You see that with a lot of leg-spinners,” Lyon said. “They’ve got different ways of taking wickets.
“But I thought the way Marnus has come on and done his job for the side over the last two games with the ball, I think he’s an exciting little player. I’ve got big hopes for him, big wraps on him. He’s a lovely guy, I’m a big fan of him. So if he can keep improving the way he’s bowling, and trying to bowl his best ball every ball day in day out, I think he’s got a big future.”