Concussed Smith's substitute Labuschagne shines as Australia draw second Ashes Test
Marnus Labuschagne made history as international cricket's first concussion substitute before his spellbinding half-century aided Australia draw the second Ashes Test against England at Lord's on Sunday.
Labuschagne was not part of the playing XI until Sunday morning when Australia's reliable batting genius Steve Smith was ruled out with a mild concussion having been hit by a nasty bumper from Archer that jolted him quite badly.
This series is the first in the ICC's inaugural World Test Championship that allows replacement players to bat or bowl if they are substituting concussed team-mates. Earlier they could only take the field but now they can add more value to a team.
Labuschagne, new to the Test arena, acclimatized to his late surprise call-up superbly by top-scoring in the second innings, showing great resilience and he grew in confidence despite being peppered with hostile short-pitched stuff from Archer.
He used his feet well and smothered Jack Leach's spin and guile, making sure there were no hiccups as Australia ended the final day of the second test at 154-6.
"Marnus played superbly," remarked Australia captain Tim Paine. "He got hit hard in the face second ball and I thought he showed great character, great skill, and technique."
The rain-truncated game made draw a plausible outcome right from the beginning, with Australia 132-3 after tea in a Test where five sessions were washed out.
However, there was a stark contrast from the first Test as the changes in England's lineup with Archer and Leach altering the complexion of their bowling arsenal.
Archer added firepower to the attack and hurled his thunderbolts relentlessly finishing with five scalps in his debut whereas Leach complemented him splendidly from the other end.
The off-spinner was accurate in the fourth innings and extracted vicious turn out of the rough, ending the match with figures of 4-56.
'It was important that we bounce back strongly' - Root
Australia had a walk in the park against England in the series opener taming England by 251 runs but the tooth and nail battle in the second Test has really brought the Ashes to life.
"I think it was important that we bounced back strongly and I think we've certainly done that," said Root.
Smith put up another impressive show by accumulating 92 runs and deprived England making inroads in the first innings.
His absence would definitely be a massive blow to Australia who are eying their first Ashes win in England in 18 years.
Smith made significant contributions at Edgbaston in his first Test, amassing a whopping 144 and 142, staging a resounding comeback after completing a 12-month ban for his role in the ignominious ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.
"I'm not sure about Headingley. He (Smith) will need to improve, there's no doubt about that. Hopefully, for our sake he does." said Tim Paine.
Cricket Australia said: "Steve Smith had a precautionary scan of his neck on Sunday which, as expected, cleared him of any structural damage. After the scan, Steve returned to the team hotel to rest and he will continue to be reviewed on an ongoing basis."
Stokes was amazed by Archer's emphatic debut and went all praise for his teammate.
"It is brilliant to have someone like that in the team. He bowled a nine-over spell at 90mph-plus. It was frightening. I would much rather have him on our side."