Nobody saw him coming. A concussion sub during the Ashes and now, Marnus Labuschagne has started 2020 with a sublime hundred as Australia continued to dominate New Zealand in the Test series. (More Cricket News)
On Day 1 of the third Test at Sydney, Labuschagne hit the third ball of the 72nd over, bowled by Colin de Grandhomme, for a four to reach his hundred -- fourth this summer.
The 25-year-old thus became the first player to hit a century in 2020. He was also the first to hit a fifty in the new year. The ton helped Labuschagne past 700 runs for the summer.
He is just the fifth Australian to score four Test tons in a home series this century, after David Warner, Steve Smith, Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer. For the record, Don Bradman, Doug Walters, Mark Taylor and Neil Harvey are the other Aussies in that group.
After winning the toss, Australia lost both the openers early -- Joe Burns (18) and David Warner (45). But Labuschagne added 156 runs for the third wicket with Steve Smith (63).
He was unbeaten on 130 off 210 balls at Day stumps. Australia were 283/3 (90).
After playing two matches in 2018, he scored 1104 runs in 17 innings in 2019, beating team-mate Smith (965) to the second spot for the most runs in the calendar year.
He is now the leading scorer in the ICC World Test Championships with 1105 runs in 14 innings (nine matches) at an average of 85, again ahead of Smith (1028 also in 14 innings). Third on the list is Aussie opener Warner (770) in 17 innings.
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson was among three players ruled out of the match as the illness-hit Black Caps made five changes to their XI.
Already missing Trent Boult due to his fractured hand, New Zealand were dealt further blows as Williamson, Henry Nicholls and Mitchell Santner all fell victim to a virus that has swept their camp.
Tom Latham captained the tourists in Williamson's absence, while Glenn Phillips was handed a Test debut having only arrived in Sydney as cover the previous evening.
The Black Caps' other changes saw Jeet Raval, Will Somerville, Todd Astle and Matt Henry included, with Tim Southee the fifth player to drop out of the line-up from the last Test.
Australia were unchanged with Nathan Lyon continuing as the sole frontline spinner despite the call-up of the uncapped Mitchell Swepson.
The hosts are seeking a 3-0 series sweep after comfortably winning the first two Tests in Perth and Melbourne.