By | 26 Aug 2022 at 9:18 AM

Marnus Labuschagne said Australia would not be taking their opponents lightly when they kick off the new international season with a one-day international against Zimbabwe in Townsville this weekend. Sunday’s match is the first of three against the African side before the squad heads further north to face New Zealand in another three-match series in another tropical Queensland city, Cairns.

Australia have lost only two of 27 ODIs against Zimbabwe but one of those came in their last meeting in 2014, when a team featuring most of the players that won the World Cup the following year went down by three wickets in Harare. “I’m not too concerned about stats or stuff that happened in the past, our concern is that we prepare well,” batsman Labuschagne told reporters in Townsville on Friday.

“Never underestimate your opposition, that’s one thing you realise about the game now, the game’s growing so fast and there’s so much exposure for people outside of international cricket. “With the amount of cricket there is, guys are improving rapidly and teams like Zimbabwe and Netherlands and Ireland, they are highly skilled teams now.”

Labuschagne has played fewer ODIs than tests for Australia, his 21 matches coming in two clumps with 13 in 2020 and the remainder this year. “It’s been quite scattered,” he added.

“For me it’s just about getting consistent in my role, making sure I became that person batting at four or five who can finish the game off if that needs to be, or keep that run-rate going through the middle overs. “And hopefully, provide some overs with the ball.”

Australia go into the Zimbabwe matches on the back of narrow series losses in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and Labuschagne said they were keen to make a statement in Townsville with the World Cup in India only 14 months away. “We’ve come here to win three out of three games,” he said. “We want to make sure our one-day cricket is flying leading up to the 2023 World Cup.

“That preparation starts now.”

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