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Batting loss is seamers' gain in Adelaide

A remarkable shift in balance between bat and ball has been seen at the Adelaide Oval over the past two seasons

Adelaide Oval, once the global venue of choice for batters looking to fill their boots on a benign pitch bordered by easily reached square-of-the-wicket boundaries, is now among the most seamer-friendly Test grounds in Australia.

And according to Jake Lehmann, who can claim to have mastered the drastically altered conditions better than many of his fellow batting specialists, that transformation presents both the greatest advantage and the sternest challenge for his West End Redbacks outfit in the coming summer.

Lehmann's prognosis is validated by the remarkable shift in balance between bat and ball seen at the Adelaide Oval over the past two seasons, since the historic first day-night Test match in 2015 demanded additional grass be maintained on the pitch to help preserve the surface of the pink ball.

That fundamental change to playing conditions coupled with the 'settling' of the drop-in pitches that were introduced to the redeveloped Oval prior to the 2013-14 season has recast Adelaide from a batting paradise to a happy hunting ground for pace bowlers.

Across eight Sheffield Shield matches at the venue in the past two summers, only one player – Lehmann, with two centuries during that period – has managed to post scores of 50-plus on more than two occasions.

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More tellingly, the average team totals in combined first innings at Adelaide has slumped from the highest at Australia's Test venues (almost 334) in the two seasons immediately after the drop-in pitches were laid, to the second-lowest (around 262) behind only the SCG in the past two summers.

The impact of the longer grass is further highlighted by the returns of the Redbacks' seamers on a pitch long believed to offer quicks little other than blisters and heartache.

Chadd Sayers, Joe Mennie and Daniel Worrall are among the top four Shield wicket-takers (with Victoria pace man Chris Tremain) in the past two years.

"I think it's just slowly changed with the drop-ins," Lehmann told cricket.com.au when asked why posting big scores at Adelaide Oval had become such a challenge in recent years.

"Before that they were really dry and suited the spinners, then with the day-night (Test match) they had to find a way to keep the pink ball from getting cut up and the way they did that was to keep a bit more grass on the wicket.

"We found that it suited our four quicks (including Australia ODI seamer Kane Richardson) who have been awesome, so that's how we've decided to try and win games."

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While the Redbacks have forged a reliable template to win games on their reconstituted home deck, they have yet to unlock the secret to secure trophies having found themselves on the losing side in consecutive Shield finals (both played away from Adelaide Oval at Glenelg and Alice Springs) as well as the domestic one-day series decider at North Sydney two years ago.

Despite earning silver medals instead of silverware, Lehmann dismisses suggestions the Redbacks' window for success might be closing with a handful of new national representatives but no formal accolades to show for their improved efforts in that period.

"I don’t think the window's going to close at all," Lehmann said.

"Our side is getting more games into each player, and if you said two years ago that we were going to play in two Shield finals I think a lot of people would have looked at us and said there's no way it's going to happen.

"But now, when you look at our side and you go through our list and see the blokes that are not playing, then that's probably the key to our success in a way.

"We've got blokes that can't get a game who previously did - we left out Kane Richardson from the Shield final last season and (batter) Alex Ross played only one Shield game for us last year.

"There's a number of people that haven't played as many games as they would in previous years, and that's a credit to our depth and the competition that we have for spots at the moment.

"But the end goal is to win some silverware, as a collective.

"We've made three finals in the past two years and haven't brought one back to SA yet."

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To realise that ambition, Lehmann acknowledges that he and his fellow batters must find greater consistency and productivity, even if SA are drawn play at least four of their five scheduled home games in the 2017-18 JLT Sheffield Shield season at bowler-friendly Adelaide Oval.

And despite being the Redbacks' second-highest runs scorer over the past two Shield summers, behind skipper Travis Head (at a marginally better average than his captain), Lehmann counts himself among those who need to turn regular starts into scores of substance.

As he did in his breakthrough 2015-16 summer when – in his third Shield appearance – he expanded his maiden first-class century into a career-high 205 against Tasmania at Hobart, an innings that he's been looking to replicate ever since.

Especially against the premier opposition, such as Shield finals (where his aggregate in four completed innings is 29) and in SA's coming Shield season opener against a full-strength New South Wales line-up expected to feature Test spearheads Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon.

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"I want to do well in games like that and really stand up when the pressure is right on," he said.

"I'm just chiming in and trying to do my bit, but I'm always searching for that big hundred again – 180s and scores like that win games, so they're the ones you're trying to get as a batter.

"We've been aggressive in our approach and we still want to do that, but to do it in all 10 games (of the Shield season) not just five.

"That's what's happened in the last two years – we've won five Shield games, and we've lost five.

"So we want to keep that approach and be aggressive but we want to win eight Shield games, or 10 games, or if we win five to make sure we draw the other five and not lose them."