Australia 293 for 2 (Labuschagne 154*, Smith 59*) vs West Indies
Coming to the crease in the fourth over after the wicket of opener David Warner, Labuschagne was confronted by a pumped-up attack on a surface with 10mm of grass left on it .
While most of their team-mates have lacked playing red ball cricket, amid a slew of limited-overs internationals, Labuschagne and Khawaja showed the benefit of a lengthy preparation through four Sheffield Shield matches with Queensland this season.
Labuschagne has clearly enjoyed returning to Optus Stadium, where he scored 143 and 50 against New Zealand three years ago in the last Test match played at the 60,000-seat ground.
While Khawaja looked in sparkling touch from the get go to continue his Test resurgence as an opener with an average of 95 for the calendar year. It was almost a shock when he fell before tea to a cracker of a delivery from seamer Kyle Mayers, but Australia soon regained control in a one-sided final session.
Perhaps sensing their opposition wilting, Labuschagne and Smith put the foot down after tea to score freely as West Indies went through the motions and their quicks were unconvincing with the second new ball.
He capitalised on an increasingly weary West Indies effort, hooking a six off Alzarri Joseph into the sparse grandstands late in the day.
Smith’s strong form from the ODI series against England continued, underlining his increasing confidence with his new technique, which he recently refined by abandoning shuffling across the crease.
Even though his trademark exaggeration after leaving deliveries was still eye-catching, Smith was well balanced at the crease as he continually drove sweetly through the covers.
It was a disappointing back end of the day for West Indies, whose hopes of an upset were seemingly raised when Australia captain Pat Cummins gambled and batted first. They bowled a good line and length backed up by aggressive captaincy from skipper Kraigg Brathwaite, who implemented attacking fields complete with five slips reminiscent of the nearby WACA’s heyday.
West Indies were rewarded with the early wicket of Warner, whose lean run in Test cricket continued when he chopped a full and wide delivery from Seales onto the stumps.
But inroads failed to materalise as Labuschagne and Khawaja dug in before gaining control in the afternoon amid cooler weather and a flagging attack on a surface playing fewer tricks than expected.
There were fears of a frosty reception from fans after the fallout over ex-coach Justin Langer’s recent inflammatory interview, which overshadowed the opening Test of the Australian summer.
But Langer, a favourite son in his hometown of Perth, was on the ground before play chatting to several Australia players in perhaps a sign of a truce. There was no apparent ill feeling throughout the day from fans, who also applauded both teams for taking the knee before play in a stand against racism.
But a crowd of just 10,929 underlined the general apathy in Perth for the match, which received little fanfare in the lead up.
A full-strength Australia went in as expected, while West Indies named Tagenarine Chanderpaul, the son of legendary batter Shivnarine, for his Test debut and he received his marooned cap from Brian Lara before play.
Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth
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