Has Marnus Labuschagne’s success limited Steve Smith’s impact?

Steve Smith is two centuries old and averaging 48 since the fourth 2019 Ashes Test – a far cry from the performances we’ve grown accustomed to from the former captain.

So how did we get here?

Look no further than Lords 2019 – the first leg of Smith’s reduced production as a Test hitter.

Smith is in the middle of another elegant round, but is suddenly brought to his knees.

Jofra Archer’s bouncer hitting Smith in the neck caused a delayed concussion and meant he needed a replacement hitter.

This dough? Marnus Labuschagne: the involuntary reason for his decline in form since that day.

Labuschagne, a five Test rookie at the time, became the first-ever concussion substitute in Test cricket history and quickly scored 59 in the second innings of the match as a substitute for Smith, putting him on the path to becoming the current No. 1 in the ICC. – Classified test batter.

But while Australia reveled in Labuschagne’s prowess as a scorer, his stardom limited Smith, who, according to ESPN Cricinfo averaging nearly 15 fewer runs in Tests since that game (48.46).

Smith averaged 63.41 after Lords – already putting him among the best – but his average since has left many wondering what happened to the star’s form.

It’s clear now that there were a series of sliding door moments leading up to this damning stat, all of which sum up Smith and Labuschagne’s role reversal.

Scoring 74 and 80 at bat at Smith’s usual No. 4 position as a substitute for the Ashes’ Third Test, Labuschagne gave Australia a welcome selection headache.

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Smith’s imminent return meant a top hitter had to be omitted, but Labuschagne’s undeniable form protected him from expulsion.

The ax fell on No. 3 Usman Khawaja with Labuschagne jumping up one spot for the next game, while Smith regained his spot at 4.

The importance of this decision can only be measured in retrospect.

Labuschagne had hit at the 5, 6 and 7 positions in his first five Tests, but by assuming the No. 3 spot, he gave himself a golden future opportunity.

After The Ashes, Australia’s next Test series was against Pakistan at home – games which completed the Smith/Labuschagne switch.

Labuschagne scored 185 and 162 in both tests; two substantial wins which saw Australia only need to beat once.

Meanwhile, Smith, coming in at 101st and 84th respectively (having come in at the tenth fold on average in the 2019 Ashes), scored 4 and 36, significant misses for his lofty standards.

Labuschagne’s dominance in those two games, where his position at the first drop allowed him to come early in the game and capitalize on a week of bowling in Pakistan, then saw Smith beat at a time when the expected pace was more higher than usual. – doesn’t suit his traditional hitting style.

This short series of Tests anchored Labuschagne in the team and allowed him to overtake Smith as the Australian side’s star hitter.

And the stats from there explain how.

Labuschagne is averaging 63.05 with six cents since replacing Smith at Lords and is currently the best hitter in the world.

During that same span, Smith recorded 12 scores under 20, in 25 innings.

For reference, from the start of 2014 until the Lords Test in 2019, Smith scored less than 20 to just 20 times in 69 innings, highlighting his significant drop in form.

Additionally, when Labuschagne scored a century, Smith was below his career average 66% of the time.

Labuschagne’s higher average may also be due to the fact that he played six more innings throughout that span, with his success and superiority in the batting order, meaning Smith’s serves n were not required, which reduced its overall production.

While Smith’s form has certainly not been terrible since Labuschagne’s emergence, who knew it would affect his form so much?

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