Marnus Labuschagne’s batting skills in the middle overs would make him a better choice than all-rounder Marcus Stoinis in Australia’s World Cup semi-final against South Africa in Kolkata on Thursday, feels former captain Ricky Ponting. Glenn Maxwell will return to the Australian side after resting from the final league game against Bangladesh on Saturday, and either one of Labuschagne or Marcus Stoinis will get the chop for the semifinal against the Proteas at Eden Gardens. Ponting has backed Labuschagne to be in the playing eleven for the semifinal match and wants batting all-rounder Stoinis to be dropped. Stoinis has had an ordinary campaign with both bat and ball so far, scoring 87 runs at an average of 21.75, while taking four wickets at 35.75 from six World Cup matches.
“I probably would (retain Labuschagne)… we’ve seen Australia have gone to Mitchell Marsh’s bowling before they used Stoinis,” Ponting said on the Fox Cricket broadcast, referring to Australia’s last league match against Bangladesh.
Citing example of the strong Indian middle-order, Ponting said it’s Labuschagne who can do well in the middle overs.
“If you actually look at the numbers through this series, he (Labuschagne) hasn’t done a bad job, second leading run scorer… and I know the most important phase for Australia through this tournament they haven’t got right yet is their middle order batting. They haven’t got that right and they need to fix that quickly,” said the batting great.
“If you’re going to win the World Cup, you’re going to have to fix those overs 11 to 40, because so far in the tournament they’ve lost 12 more wickets in that period of time in the tournament than what India have through the whole tournament, India have only lost 20 wickets through that phase,” he pointed out.
Labuschagne struck two classic fifties against the Netherlands and Bangladesh. He also drew much attention with his superb fielding against Bangladesh.
The Australian World Cup-winning skipper also revealed inside information that Labuschagne would have been dropped from the Australian playing eleven that beat Afghanistan on November 7 if Smith was fit.
Smith was later cleared of his vertigo issues and returned to action against Bangladesh.
“If Steve Smith had passed his fitness test, which he didn’t, then Labuschagne was the one missing out and Stoinis was staying in the side,” Ponting said.
Echoing similar sentiments, former Australia all-rounder Shane Watson said on the World Cup TV broadcast that Labuschagne would be needed to balance the batting if the team faces difficult conditions under the lights.
“He (Labuschagne) is someone who has done a very good job for Australia throughout this World Cup, and as well Marcus Stoinis hasn’t set this World Cup alight yet,” Watson was quoted saying in news.com.au.
“What we’ve seen in this World Cup, is if Australia end up batting second in a semi-final, that period with those two new balls swinging around, you do need your best technically equipped batters who can handle that moving ball.
“Labuschagne, with the Test skills, he’s got the ability to be able to handle a moving ball. There is a chance that Australia will have to bat second under lights, and he’s done a very good job of that throughout this tournament,” said Watson.
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