Marked Marnus ‘must adapt on fly’ to maintain momentum
Steve Smith believes that Marnus Labuschagne is smart enough to overcome the threat of second-year syndrome, where computer data and eagle-eyed coaches are trying to plot his downfall.
Labuschagne was still Australia's third highest scorer in the opening Test, but he was dropped three times in the first innings and threw his wicket away in the final run chase, in a sign that no player ever has it all his own way.
Last summer, Labuschagne dominated in a way that can only be described as Smith-like, and the inseparable pair are looking even more similar at the crease by the day.
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But the one thing that separates Smith from Labuschagne, is that he has now proven over several years his ability to keep dominating even when opposition attacks put a target on his back.
There is nowhere to hide for Labuschagne now in Test cricket - he is a marked man.
But Smith is confident his protégé will rise to the challenge of the increased pressure and attention on him, and produce a second album every bit as compelling as the first.
"You have to take confidence out of what you've done. For Marnus taking the positives out of what he did last year (is key)," said Smith.
"He batted exceptionally well, batted for long periods of time, had really good plans, and was able to adapt to what was thrown at him.
"(This time around), It's being able to adapt on the fly and understand how the bowlers are trying to get you out or contain you, and coming up with a plan to counter that.
"Marnus had such an amazing year last year and people have seen a bit more of him and how he plays.
"I think it's going to be for him to understand on the fly what's going on, how they're trying to go about it.
"That's one thing I think Marnus will do really well. He's got a really good cricket brain, he knows how he wants to play, I'm sure he'll be fine with whatever is thrown at him."
Australia is yet to officially rule Will Pucovski or David Warner out of the Boxing Day Test, but that is expected to happen in the coming 24-48 hours.
Warner is a more realistic chance of returning for the third Test.
Labuschagne is only just into his second full season of international cricket, but already he has become a teacher to others - helping captain Tim Paine improve his technique.
Paine scored his third first-class century earlier this summer at the time Labuschagne was helping him during the Sheffield Shield, and his man-of-the-match 73 not out in the first Test was arguably his finest Test knock.
Australia coach Justin Langer made a point of locking in Labuschagne at No.3 this summer, and not subjecting him to a pinch-hitting role at opener - for fear of messing with the fact the country finally found the batting anchor at first drop it's been looking for since Ricky Ponting.
Smith suggested he leans on Labuschagne as a sounding board as much as the other way around.
"You go to people that you trust. If they can help you with your game then great," he said.
"Marnus and I both talk about batting a lot. We've got pretty similar set-ups in the way we play and similar mindsets about going about things. I read that the other day that Tim did a bit of work with Marnus.
"Tim is a big tinkerer with his batting. He rarely does two things the same week in, week out. He does what feels good at the time and what he feels is going to work. Fortunately last week it worked and hopefully he can continue to do that."
Originally published as Marked Marnus 'must adapt on fly' to maintain momentum