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SHEFFIELD SHIELD 2015-16

Match-winner Holland weathers storms

31 March 2016

Jon Holland celebrates one of his eight wickets in the Sheffield Shield final // Getty

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The left-arm spinner played a crucial role in Victoria's Sheffield Shield final-winning side after a number of difficult moments in recent years

About the Writer:
 @martinsmith9994

Martin Smith is a writer for cricket.com.au. He previously wrote for Yahoo!7 Sport and Fox Sports.

Victoria spinner Jon Holland has ridden the clichéd highs and lows that come with professional sport as much as anyone.

Back in 2009 in India there was the high of being told by then Australia captain Ricky Ponting that he would make his international debut the following day, then the low - both metaphorically and meteorologically - of a cyclone off Mumbai's coast that washed that dream away before he could even receive his cap.

There was the high of a mesmerising 6-29 in a one-day match in 2012 that had then national selector John Inverarity labelling him one of the two best spinners in the country, then the low of the multiple shoulder operations that have had his career literally on a knife's edge.

The 2015-16 season alone has been a microcosm of Holland's career; the high of 14 wickets at 18 in the Matador Cup in October, the low of being overlooked for the first nine games of the Sheffield Shield season, then a high again of a match-winning performance in the season decider.

WATCH: Holland classic beats Bancroft in Matador Cup

Just how high or low Holland will go next is anyone's guess. Certainly at this point in time, he's on the crest of a wave.

The left-armer was overlooked for the man-of-the-match award in Victoria's Sheffield Shield final triumph over South Australia this week - teammate Peter Handscomb was given the honour for scores of 112 and 61 not out - but Holland must have been close. Very, very close.

For 66 accurate and beguiling overs across two innings, the 28-year-old claimed eight wickets, all of them members of SA's top seven, as the Bushrangers recorded a seven-wicket win.

WATCH: Holland's five puts Vics in box seat

Certainly Redbacks captain Travis Head, who was one of Holland's victims during a crucial 14-over spell of 3-28 on the third afternoon that turned the match emphatically in Victoria's favour, was in no doubt of the spinner's contribution.

"He's a match-winner (and) I think he was the match-winner in this game," the skipper said on Wednesday.

"Pete (Handscomb) played very well and the batters set the game up, but 'Duck' bowled brilliantly and put the pressure right on us.

"He bowled fantastic.

"Going into the game knowing he was playing, he hasn't played most of the season (but) I know 'Dutchy' from the Strikers and he's one of the best spinners in the country - left-arm spinners - by miles. He just hasn't been on the park.

"Seeing him in Alice (Springs) bowling well I was a little bit nervous because he's done it before."

Quick Single: Proud Redbacks looking for more

'Duck' certainly has done it before at first-class level, but only on the rare occasion he's been given the opportunity to do so.

The strong form of leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed for the Bushrangers in recent seasons has restricted Holland to just five Shield matches in the past two summers.

He's taken 27 wickets at 22 in those five outings, form that would probably earn him a regular spot at five other states, but Ahmed's wicket-taking threat for most of those two seasons has simply been more potent.

Having wanted to give Holland more of an opportunity, Victoria got the chance at the end of this season when their final regular season game in Alice Springs and the five-day final in Glenelg warranted a dual-spin attack.

WATCH: Highlights from day five of the Sheffield Shield final

Fourteen wickets from their left-armer followed and it's been enough for Bushrangers coach David Saker to spruik his charge for higher honours when Australia's tours of Sri Lanka (in July and August this year) and India (in February and March next year) demand a second spinner alongside incumbent Nathan Lyon.

"He’s shown when the conditions are there and it spins he’s probably as good anyone going around,” said Saker.

"So I hope (when) they do go to the sub-continent that his name will get bandied around."

Quick Single: Five moments that turned the Shield final

There's little doubt NSW's Steve O'Keefe has the inside running in the race to be Lyon's back-up for upcoming Test series, just ahead of a chasing pack that also includes names like Ahmed, Ashton Agar and Adam Zampa.

O'Keefe was named for Australia's postponed tour of Bangladesh last October and played in the washed-out SCG Test in January before injury ruined the remainder of the season.

But Victoria skipper Matthew Wade saw enough of his left-armer in the Shield final to echo the words of his coach.

"At times we were searching for the third seamer, so for him to come on day one and (then) do what he did in the second innings was unbelievable," Wade said.

"To bowl 37 overs and go for 70 runs (in the second innings) is pretty much unheard of, so he was terrific.

"(He's) not all that experienced in first-class cricket ... (and) we easily could have gone for another quick. But we believe in Jon and what he can do.

"We've seen it over a long period of time now in one-day cricket and now he is doing it at the first-class level.

"That's exciting for us and now the opportunities going forward for Australia, I would say he is right in the picture now."

It's been almost six-and-a-half years since Holland's international debut was ruined by Mumbai's big wet, but if his performance in Glenelg over Easter was any indication, it will take more than a one-off intervention from the weather gods to keep him away for good.

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