Cricket: Labuschagne happy to lead without a title in Ashes

FILE PHOTO: Cricket - Australia Nets - Emirates Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain - September 2, 2019 Australia's Marnus Labuschagne during nets. Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Marnus Labuschagne was overlooked as a leadership candidate following Tim Paine's resignation as Australia's test captain but the batsman said he is happy to focus on scoring big runs against Ashes foes England.

Though only 18 tests into his career, Labuschagne was floated as a future captain by former players and pundits but not offered an interview by a Cricket Australia panel, which named Pat Cummins skipper and Steve Smith vice-captain last week.

If Labuschagne's pride was wounded, the 27-year-old hid it well when asked about the snub in Brisbane on Friday.

"No, I wasn’t disappointed," Labuschagne told reporters.

"I think there are two very good leaders and very good candidates.

"(Cummins) is going to do a fabulous job and he’s got plenty of support with Steve as his vice-captain and all the senior players of the group.

"My job right now is to concentrate on scoring runs consistently for Australia and I’m happy for that to be my role for now.

"You don’t need the title to still be a leader in the group."

A little more than two years on from the 2019 Ashes, Labuschagne has cemented himself as Australia's number three and one of the world's best batsman with a stratospheric average of more than 60.

He has come a long way since his first Ashes appearance, when he became test cricket's first concussion substitute at Lord's after Smith was taken out by a Jofra Archer bouncer.

Labuschagne was struck on the grill of his helmet second ball by Archer but dusted himself off and scored an impressive 59 in Australia's second innings, helping the tourists draw the match and preserve a vital 1-0 lead in the series.

While Smith dominated the drawn series with 774 runs, Labuschagne played an outstanding support act, notching four half-centuries to help Australia retain the urn in England for the first time in nearly two decades.

He has since racked up five hundreds, including a 215 against New Zealand, and looms as a major problem for England to solve in the series starting at the Gabba next week.

"The target is on your back now that you’re scoring runs and that you’re a main part of that team," said Labuschagne.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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