Labuschagne’s double and Smith’s Bradman-equalling ton build Australia’s dominance

Lunch Australia 402 for 3 (Labuschagne 204, Smith 114*) vs West Indies

Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith notched milestones before lunch on day two, pummelling an uninspiring West Indies attack as Australia strengthened their grip on the first Test at Optus Stadium in Perth.

With Australia starting day two at a commanding 293 for 2, Labuschagne and Smith combined for a 251-run partnership on a surface offering bounce but seemingly lacking spice.

Just two deliveries after registering his second Test double-century, Labuschagne fell on the stroke of lunch after he was caught behind off Kraigg Brathwaite.

The wicket came from nowhere after the pair had batted through the session. Smith’s confidence with his refined technique was justified, as he equalled Sir Donald Bradman on the most centuries tally with his 29th Test ton.

He reached the milestone with a single to long on – who was strangely not brought in – and celebrated in a subdued manner in an ominous sign for West Indies.

In the process, Smith also passed 4000 Test runs at home. Only Bradman (98.22) and Sir Garfield Sobers (66.8) have better home averages than Smith’s 64.53.

He also continued his dominance over West Indies, against whom he currently averages over 200 in six Tests.

As coach Phil Simmons noted after day one, West Indies desperately needed early wickets in an attempt to restrict Australia to a first-innings total of around 400-450 runs.

After a sunny and warm opening day, the visitors would have been encouraged by the cool and cloudy conditions at the start of play. But they couldn’t recapture the discipline shown in yesterday’s first session with spearhead Kemar Roach unable to set the tone with a wayward delivery first up, easily dispatched by Smith.

After aggressive captaincy earlier in the innings from Brathwaite, who implemented attacking fields complete with five slips, he mostly sought a defensive approach.

Allrounder Jason Holder surprisingly bowled alongside Roach to start the day’s play and his towering height was able to conjure occasional steep bounce, but the batters were up to the task by cleverly steering balls through the gaps behind the wicket.

In what would have particularly frustrated Simmons, who believed his team endured a luckless performance on day one, Labuschagne narrowly missed dragging a ball onto the stumps off seamer Kyle Mayers, who was perhaps underused the previous day after impressing with a superb delivery to dismiss Usman Khawaja.

Brathwaite, whose captaincy came under the microscope on day one, didn’t revert to speedster Alzarri Joseph until the stroke of the drinks break. But there were a few fireworks on a pitch looking good for batting despite the strip of green running down the centre of the wicket and the unusual grey surrounds to greet the first day of summer.

Quick Jayden Seales, who claimed the wicket of David Warner in the fourth over of the innings, was not used until just before lunch.

After struggling in his expensive 15 overs yesterday, offspinner Roston Chase came into the attack after drinks and bowled better. He was unlucky not to pick up Labuschagne on 194 when wicketkeeper Josh Da Silva missed a tough catch.

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth