Australian cricket legend Ian Chappell has pointed out the ‘chronic weakness’ Australia has faced since the retirement of Ricky Ponting batting at No.3, which includes the likes of Steve Smith avoiding the batting position.
Ponting enjoyed a remarkable career playing 168 Test matches for Australia and scoring 13,378 at an average of 51.85.
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The Tasmanian-born cricketer set the tone around the world as the archetypal No.3 batsman.
And Chappell has pointed to two of the world’s premier batsmen, Smith and England captain Joe Root, and why their reluctance to bat at No.3 appears a ‘strange’ tactic.
Root had his time at No.3 during the recent Ashes, which he performed well, despite bowlers dominating the series.
But he has since dropped back down the order.
As Chappell said on ESPN CricketInfo: “Unless you are a born opener, No. 3 is the ideal position to bat.”
“Even in the event of an early loss of wicket, the No. 3 is still pre-empting disaster, and there's a golden opportunity to set the tone for the innings. Surely it's better to come in at 1 for not many rather than 2 for very few.”
Root’s position compared to Smith
Chappell points to Root and Smith’s numbers and what they often face when striding to the crease.
A No.3 batsman will walk to the crease on seven per cent of the occasion when the team is yet to score.
More staggeringly, a No.3 will walk out 30 per cent of the time when a team is yet to reach 10 runs.
Interestingly, Root has walked out in more dire circumstances - with his team two down for less runs - than Smith has throughout their storied careers.
But like Cheteshwar Pujara for India, who has cemented the No.3 position and excelled, Chappell has praised Marnus Labushagne’s willingness to take on the role for the Aussie cricket team.
“Labuschagne's tremendous success at No. 3 has solved Australia's problem and helped stabilise the batting. Crucially, the team is now far less reliant on Smith and David Warner to accumulate sizeable totals,” he wrote.
Labuschagne’s rise to stardom, especially since the 2019 Ashes series, has been extraordinary.
He has played 14 matches for Australia, amassed 1,459 runs at an average of 63.43.