Almanac Cricket: Marnus and the Nightwatchman


The rise of Marnus Labuschagne from a Steve Smith replacement batter to one of the three leading batsmen in world cricket has been spectacular. He is a talented cricketer.


Marnus Labuschagne is also an enigma. There, I’ve said it.


Not only that; Marnus possesses super-natural talents, many of them designed to protect his mentor, Steve Smith. His recent rescue of Smith from an elevator with a malfunctioning door mechanism is but one manifestation.


All this became clear to me when the premature end to the Boxing Day Test meant a visit to the cinema to see the almost-never-ending sci-fi movie Dune*. In it, to avoid trouble, the protagonist, something of a superhuman, employs a non-rhythmic, edgy, sideways lunging ‘sandwalk’. These motions appear to be a modification of similar movements at the cricket crease first pioneered by Smith and mirror the jerky, arms akimbo, side-then-forward steps taken by Labuschagne after he has played a defensive shot or let the ball go through to the keeper.


Or is it the other way round?


The mystic powers of Labuschagne have also allowed him to overcome the compelling evidence of the umpire decision review system (DRS). More often than not, his morose, forlorn trudge towards the boundary after an apparent dismissal has been followed by a DRS recall, his triumphant return to the crease being matched in exuberance only by the personal on-field celebrations that follow a David Warner century.


However, there have been occasions when, with stumps flattened, even the famed Marnus hostile, pointed stare in the direction of the umpire has been unable to alter the situation.


When padded up and next to bat in the last overs of the day and times of trouble loom, Mother Mary does not come to Marnus, as she does to Paul McCartney. With Lord Langer in total concurrence, Marnus simply invokes the Power of the Nightwatchman. Other leading players of their day, Bradman, Lara, Tendulkar or Border never did. Why would they? It did not work for Ben Stokes, as the hapless Jack Leach can testify. Joe Root didn’t call for a replacement either, crouched over in agony after receiving a fearful blow amidships in the last over of the day in the Adelaide Test. He stayed at the crease and soldiered on, only to be dismissed by a Starc exocet a couple of balls later. One wonders what Marnus may have done in a similar circumstance.


However, it was a COVID scare, not Marnus, that brought about the nightwatchman-like situation on the third day in Melbourne in which the free to air TV commentary featured the knowledgeable duo of Mike Atherton and Lisa Sthaleker. For a short time, these two excellent broadcasters replaced the desolation row members of the usual commentary team who are continually intent on ‘reciting the alphabet’ of their careers. Unfortunately, it was not a long innings.


*There are parallels between Dune and cricket that could be explored at some stage, in particular, the ‘guttural’ and ‘alien’ chants of battle.




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About Peter Crossing

Peter Crossing loves the pure 'n natch'l blues. He is a member of the silver fox faction of the Adelaide Uni Greys. He is something of a cricket tragic although admitting to little interest in the IPL or Big Bash forms of the game.


  1. Love it Peter.

    Would be an intriguing and enjoyable interview,for any of us, given the chance.

  2. John Kenneally says

    Well said Peter. For my sins I too saw Dune over the break and was disappointed. I don’t know what I expected but it was too close to Star Wars for my liking.
    If I can digress on cricket matters a bit, can anyone explain to me why the Strikers in the BBL are so un-competitive this year? It may be a lot of sound and fury signifying not much at all to cricket purists but, for me, it used to be an enjoyable way to while away the summer evenings. The fact that Adelaide is incredibly short on batting talent stands out like the proverbials and should have been obvious before the season began. Is it that Adelaide simply can’t afford to buy players like the other franchises have and, if not, what is the problem?
    I still can’t warm to the Aust cricket team very much. Their celebration at the end of the MCG test was completely over the top. We were always going to flog them and it became more and more obvious as the game wore on. So why the huge celebration? Can’t we just win graciously for a change?

  3. CITRUS BOB says

    Too true Peter Labuschagne needs to change his behavior which I have agitated for recently if he ever wants to captain Australia. Isn,t it time that the whole Australian team was brought into line. Afraid it won’t until after Langer’s term at the helm finishes.
    JTH’s comment on the over-the-top celebrations resonates with me as well. In fact, I cringe. They should take a look as to how the Bangladeshi’s celebrated yesterday with their win against NZ. Also India last summer.
    As JTH said we knew we were going to win why go over the top. Where is humility in Oz?
    Thanks, guys

  4. Peter Crossing says

    Thanks John, JK and Citrus Bob.
    JK, I am the wrong person to ask to comment on the BBL. I appreciate it is a an “enjoyable way to while away the summer evenings”. There have been some positives for all forms of the game in the way batsman and bowlers have had to innovate (eg R. Pant in the Brisbane Test last season etc) but ……

  5. Is the Marcus macho just a reflection of the supreme ego of top sportsmen & women? “Losing is never an option and never my fault?”
    Or is it a calculated strategy to intimidate umpires and influence decisions. Interesting that in EPL soccer penalties have nearly doubled since VAR and they go disproportionately to top sides. Players know how to get crowds howling so that the next decision goes their way. Video detects fine details that were never visible to human eye in real time. Umpires and referees enforce strict liability rules.
    In soccer an attacker on edge of penalty area with no chance of scoring kicks ball away from goal into defenders hoping for a hand ball penalty.
    Intent and fairness “feel for the game” no longer apply in sport in the hyper scrutinised video era.
    (Old man bays at moon and sporting interests now limited to WAFL community footy and my own golf. Sport will eat itself).

  6. Peter Crossing says

    Case in point, PB. Smith did not even attempt to manipulate the umpires concerning a decision as to whether or not play should be interrupted because light rain had started to fall. He simply ran off the field to the apparent bemusement of others. And, upon his dismissal, from what I could see, no real recognition of crowd applause as he left the arena.

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