The crucial match between second-placed Tasmania and defending champions Victoria was evenly poised at stumps on day one at Bellerive Oval.
In the marquee match of the final round, the hosts finished at 304-7 after being sent in to bat in a virtual ‘semi-final’ as the winner of the match will qualify for the Sheffield Shied final. Tom Rogers (15) and Sam Rainbaird (4) remained unbeaten at the close and will be relied upon on day two as Tasmania’s in-form tail has contributed invaluable runs in recent matches.
The Tigers had solid contributors across the board but no one was able to kick on and make a big score as the Bushrangers’ probing attack was able to regularly take wickets. Jake Doran (57) and Jordan Silk (55) played well at the top of the order and wicketkeeper Matthew Wade (49) contributed valuable late runs before the close but the hosts would be disappointed not to have seized the initiative.
Seamer Chris Tremain led a valiant Bushrangers attack with a four-wicket haul in a topsy-turvy day of cricket befitting the tense position both teams find themselves in.
Victoria are striving for their fourth straight Shield title, while the Tigers are hoping to make the decider for the first time since 2013. Both teams can still host the final, which would be a remarkable turnaround for the Bushrangers who were sitting in last place at the competition’s midpoint.
Brief Scores: Tasmania 304/7 (Jake Doran 57; Chris Tremain 4-64) vs Victoria
Top-placed Queensland struggled on the opening day against NSW in Wollongong as the Bulls strive to lock up a home final.
The Bulls were bowled out for just 243 at North Dalton Park and, in reply, the hosts cruised to 41-0 at stumps as they strive to keep their season alive.
After NSW won the toss and elected to bowl, seamer Trent Copeland snared the crucial early wicket of in-form Matthew Renshaw for just 8 in the fifth over. The powerful left-hander has been in hot form, with three fifties in a row before this game.
Opener Joe Burns, in his first Shield match of the calendar year, looked the goods with numerous trademark back foot boundaries but lacked support as the Bulls succumbed to Copeland, who starred with 5 for 74.
The former Test opener hit a fluent 97 punctuated by 10 boundaries before falling agonisingly short of a deserved century when he fell to Harry Conway in the final session. After the Bulls were precariously placed at 117-6, Burns combined in an invaluable 74-run partnership with Michael Neser (55) to ensure the visitors mustered a competitive total.
Victory would secure a home final for the Bulls but if they lose then it would open the door for Tasmania and Victoria to host the decider. After being perched at the top of the table at the competition’s midpoint, NSW has slumped on the resumption but are still a mathematical chance of making the final but need everything to go right to extend their season.
Brief Scores: Queensland 243 (Joe Burns 97; Trent Copeland 5-74) lead New South Wales 41-0 (Nick Larkin 19*; Michael Neser 0-5) by 202 runs
With only pride on the line, it was an entertaining opening day between cellar dwellers South Australia and Western Australia.
After being sent in at Gliderol Stadium, WA suffered a top-order collapse to lurch at 64-4 within 14 overs but recovered and were bowled out for 355 just before the close. The Redbacks successfully survived one over to reach stumps at 4-0.
WA would be satisfied with their position after a wretched start with opener Josh Phillipe falling in the first over for a duck and soon followed by No.3 William Bosisto, who also failed to trouble the scorers. Seamer Daniel Worrall menaced and conjured seam movement to strike in his opening two overs before opener D’Arcy Short launched a bold counterattack.
The T20 specialist smashed a quick 41-ball 35 to set the tone with middle-order batsmen Aston Turner (79) and Hilton Cartwright (83) continuing to attack in the dead rubber fixture. The pair combined in an entertaining 101-run partnership and scored at over four runs an over before Turner fell to Worall after lunch.
Even though they lost wickets regularly, WA continued to play their strokes as the runs flowed with wicketkeeper Josh Ingles hitting a fluent half-century in the final session to punctuate the Warriors’ recovery.
The Redbacks are hoping to avoid a last-place finish after making the Shield final in the past two seasons, while the Warriors are fighting against the ignominy of claiming a wooden spoon for the first time in 54 years.
Brief Scores: Western Australia 355 (Josh Inglis 86; Daniel Worrall 5-72) lead South Australia 4/0 (Conor McInerney 3 not out; Joel Paris 0-4) trail by 351 runs