Australia's batsmen must 'grind' to foil India's plans: Labuschagne

© Reuters. First One Day International – England v Australia

By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia’s batsmen must balance aggression with discipline to combat India in the third test in Sydney after being pinned down by their bowlers in the first two matches, number three Marnus Labuschagne said.

Australia have not surpassed 200 in either test so far, struggling to break the shackles of a well-drilled Indian attack which has targeted the stumps and cut off cheap runs with heavy leg-side fields.

While much of the focus has been on Steve Smith’s struggles and his failure to reach double-figures in the series, top order batsman Labuschagne has also had to battle for runs.

Yet to score a half-century a year after dominating Pakistan and New Zealand on home pitches, Labuschagne paid credit to India’s bowlers but said Australia had to rise to the challenge.

“They’ve been very disciplined in their bowling and in their plans, with both spin and pace, I think they’ve really held that straight line,” said Labuschagne, who was dismissed for 48 and 28 in the second test in Melbourne.

“They’ve made us face a lot of balls for … a strike rate of about two runs an over.

“We need to be very disciplined. And we also need to come up with ways to put them under pressure.

“For us, it’s just making sure we keep finding ways to score … It doesn’t have to be pretty, but we just got to keep grinding and keep fighting away and if we do get in, we’ve got to make sure we get those big scores.”

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After Australia won the opener in Adelaide, India’s eight-wicket win in Melbourne has left the four-match series poised at 1-1. The Sydney test starts on Jan. 7.

With opener Joe Burns dropped after twin failures with the bat in Melbourne, David Warner has returned to the squad and is racing to recover from a groin strain.

Although close with Queensland team mate Burns, Labuschagne said Warner’s presence would give Australia a real boost.

“Someone with over 7,000 test runs and averaging near-on 50, he’s a superb player,” said Labuschagne.

“I think he’s in that top calibre of player … Just his energy that he will bring around the group and his energy in the field will be terrific.”

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