Victoria 4 for 269 (Dean 111, Handscomb 79*, Worrall 3-51) trail South Australia 340 (Ross 72, Weatherald 66, Carey 50, Tremain 3-73, Holland 3-86) by 71 runs
Back in October, Travis Dean was the talk of Australian cricket, as only the second man after Arthur Morris to make dual centuries on his state debut. As Victoria sought to squeeze South Australia, Dean joined another select group by becoming the fourth batsman to cap his first season with a hundred in the Sheffield Shield final.
Justin Langer, Phillip Hughes and Jordan Silk are the others, and their efforts all contributed to victories. Dean helped the Bushrangers take a giant stride towards doing likewise, setting the platform for what may yet become a mighty first-innings total in reply to the Redbacks’ reasonable, but now eminently reachable 340.
SA took the second new ball with four overs remaining and Daniel Worrall, the day’s most outstanding bowler, soon curled a perfect inswinger through the defences of Matthew Wade. Nightwatchman Scott Boland survived numerous uncomfortable moments before the close, including a missed chance by Sam Raphael behind point, as another vocal Glenelg Oval crowd of 2,548 rode every delivery.
Aided by a fluent Peter Handscomb, Dean absorbed plenty of pressure on a cool and overcast day that lent itself almost perfectly to seam and swing bowling. His technique stood up to more or less everything Chadd Sayers, Joe Mennie and Daniel Worrall hurled at him, and it was not until the final hour that Elliot Opie was able to coax him into an edge.
Dean’s occupation thwarted a bowling attack that had carried much before them this season, and highlighted the trouble with choosing four seamers on a pitch that has offered some movement but is also drying into something where a spinner can prosper. SA’s captain Travis Head was left to bowl his offbreaks a little more than he might have preferred, with Adam Zampa in India and Tom Andrews, the left-arm spinner, missing out on the final XI.
The final two South Australian wickets had added only 15 on resumption, giving Sayers and company the chance to defend a greater tally than many they had successfully followed up on over the course of the season. Rob Quiney was able to get off to a swift start as several Sayers deliveries swerved towards his hip. But after those early boundaries, it was a challenging time for batsmen.
Quiney succumbed when he guided Worrall low to Raphael at gully, and Marcus Stoinis was beaten first ball. Plenty of questions were asked by the bowlers, and Dean needed all his technical skill to answer them. He achieved one small victory by prompting Worrall to try a short-pitched attack, but Stoinis was unable to endure, judged by umpire Paul Wilson to have gloved a bouncer to Alex Carey behind the stumps.
Handscomb’s beginning was somewhat skittish, and he survived one vehement lbw appeal from Sayers. But he showed an inclination to get the scoreboard moving more regularly, and eased the pressure on Dean by putting some back onto SA’s seamers. Gradually, some of the Redbacks’ earlier discipline wavered, and Dean was able to pick off a few more loose balls.
The partnership gathered momentum after tea, as SA became increasingly fretful for a wicket. Words were exchanged between Handscomb and Head when SA’s captain fielded off his bowling and fired a throw back towards the stumps, which the batsman swatted away to the boundary by way of self-preservation. The Redbacks appealed for obstructing the field, and after some consultation between the umpires, were turned down.
Dean’s well-deserved century arrived soon after, not only making some Shield final history, but also breaking a recent sequence of lean scores – 9, 11, 1, 4 and 0 before this innings. An emotional celebration was follow by further occupation, but on 111, Opie was able to find a crack in the wall to break the stand at 140. That wicket gave SA an opening, and the loss of Wade before the close left the match delicately balanced once more.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
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