Concussion sub Labuschagne guides Australia to ODI win

Marnus Labuschagne wants to be the man Australia's one-day team turns to in the middle order after his majestic unbeaten 80 clinched a three-wicket win over South Africa in the Bloemfontein ODI.

Labuschagne started Thursday's clash (Friday morning AEST) out of Australia's starting XI and finished it collecting the player-of-the-match award after being activated as Cameron Green's concussion substitute part-way through the run chase.

Labuschagne hopes the innings can prove the turning point in his endeavours to repair his faltering white-ball game.

"When I came back from the Ashes, I had three to four weeks off, then went back to the drawing board and really thought about what I wanted to improve in my one-day game," said Labuschagne, whose 53.36 Test average dwarfs the 31.37 he had averaged in ODIs before his Bloemfontein knock.

"That's gone really downhill and I really didn't like that," he said.

"I've been really disappointed with the way I've played my one-day cricket the last 10 to 12 games.

"I haven't shown the intensity and courage that I would have liked.

"I wasn't too shocked when I was dropped, I said that to the selectors, 'I understand, I haven't made runs'.

"I did say I still want to be that person for you batting in the middle order.

"I addressed a few things that I wanted to improve on."

Australia had bowled out South Africa for 222 - an innings held together brilliantly by captain Temba Bavuma, who became just the 13th opener and second South African - after Herschelle Gibbs in 2000 - to carry his bat in an ODI innings with his unbeaten 114.

But in their reply, Australia lost a soldier in the sixth over when Green was thumped in the helmet by a vicious Kagiso Rabada bumper.

It was the cue for Labuschagne to rise from the bench and bat with both purpose and calmness.

"The opportunity that comes when you're concussion sub is sometimes a bit of a free hit," he said.

"The pressure of the game is still there but the expectation is probably not as much on you.

"It was nice to contribute today even though at the start of the day I wasn't even in the side."

Still, wickets tumbled around him as Australia stumbled to 7-113 in the 17th over. Labuschagne was joined by Ashton Agar and the duo batted sensibly, appearing largely untroubled as they added 112 in a magnificent, unbroken eighth-wicket stand.

"We haven't batted much together, or at all," Labuschagne said.

"It was a lot of fun.

"He's a very relaxed character and he showed great patience, great concentration and just stuck to that plan.

"We kept each other going to not get out of our bubble and not force it too much."

Labuschagne, famously, became the first concussion sub in Test history when he replaced Steve Smith during the Lord's Test of the 2019 Ashes series, which proved a defining moment of his career.

He also was originally left out of this ODI series and was only recalled because of Smith's wrist injury.

Timing is everything.

Labuschagne missed selection in Australia's 15-man squad for the upcoming World Cup but he will be willing and ready to jump in should a vacancy arise.

"You've just got to sit tight and wait for your opportunities," he said.

"When the opportunity comes you've got to be ready."

Earlier, Bavuma had defied leg cramps and a difficult pitch to post his fifth ODI century and single-handedly give his team hope, with Josh Hazlewood (3-41) and Stoinis (2-20) proving Australia's best with the ball.

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