Aussies show batting depth with win near

Scott Bailey
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CRICKET AUSTRALIA PAKISTAN

Marnus Labuschagne has hit 185, his maiden Test century, in the series opener against Pakistan

Australia's batsmen proved they are more than just a one-man band as Marnus Labuschagne's maiden Test ton put them on the verge of a massive win over Pakistan.

The tourists went to stumps at 3-64 on the third day at the Gabba, still needing another 276 to make Australia bat again after the hosts' first-innings 580.

Mitchell Starc was the late destroyer on Saturday, trapping captain Azhar Ali lbw and having Haris Sohail caught behind, with Pat Cummins getting Asad Shafiq for a duck.

But Labuschagne was the day's hero, with his fine strokeplay taking him to his highest first-class score of 185 and beyond David Warner's 154 as Australia's best bat.

Matthew Wade added 60 to go with Joe Burns' 97 at the top on Friday, with Steve Smith the only member of the top five not to pass 50, making four in a rare failure.

The issue of scoring runs when Smith failed has long been an issue for Australia.

Captain Tim Paine spoke last week of the need for others to stand up, admitting the Aussies relied too heavily on the man dubbed "the best since Bradman" in the Ashes.

But in Brisbane, Australia showed it was possible.

Their 580 marked the first time since the 2014 Boxing Day Test that the Aussies passed 300 in an innings in which Smith failed to reach double figures.

"Steve is an amazing player but there are some amazing players in that line up," Labuschagne said.

"The way Wadey came out and played and the way Davey and Joe played day two, you can't ask for a better start for your openers.

"They really took the sting out of the attack and allowed the guys batting at No.4, 5 and 6 to capitalise."

Labuschagne has at times been compared to Smith for his mannerisms.

He fidgets like him, regularly played with the bails while batting on Saturday and even has the Star Wars lightsaber leave happening.

"I have been doing that for a long time before I played, but the boys will say otherwise," Labuschagne said.

"I'm quite a visual learner, so subconsciously maybe.

"What better person to copy than the guy who averages 64."

Smith-like or not, Labuschagne was superb.

He endured some nervous moments in the 90s but otherwise drove masterfully down the ground and worked the ball behind the wicket with ease.

The Queenslander roared in joy when he converted his fifth 50 into a maiden ton, edging Shaheen Shah Afridi for four to bring up triple figures.

"It was amazing," Labuschagne said.

"I tried to get too square and I was lucky enough I got a thick edge through the gully region.

"Then it was just looking back seeing it trickle along the ground, thank you.

"A dream come true."

He looked set to make it a double century, before an edge from Shaheen (2-96) this time went to gully shortly after tea as Australia's lower-order fell around him.

His knock further strengthened Australia's top-three security, with Burns looking a lock at the top alongside Warner after Friday's 222-run opening stand.

Warner earlier added just three to his overnight score in a tough first hour on Saturday, becoming teenage sensation Naseem Shah's first Test victim when he was caught behind trying to evade a short ball.

Smith fell moments later, out to Yasir Shah (4-205) for the seventh time in his career when he was bowled trying to hit a full ball behind square on the legside.