Advertisement

Bowler's graveyard delivers Shield's best

With a subcontinental Test tour on the horizon, the Sheffield Shield's most prolific bowler has thrived where few others have

The MCG's lifeless drop-in pitches haven't received a lot of love in recent times, but the iconic venue could yet prove an unlikely wildcard in Australia's hunt for a Test series win in Asia.

Chris Tremain has learned the hard way how to take wickets on decks that offer little to no assistance to fast bowlers.

Over the past three Sheffield Shield seasons, no bowler has taken more wickets than Tremain’s 129 at 20.39. 

March: Shield standout Tremain snares six

That's more wickets, and at a better average, than Chadd Sayers (111 at 23.65), Joe Mennie (108 at 24.59) and Jackson Bird (95 at 21.65), all of whom have worn the Baggy Green over that period.

Tremain's stellar returns culminated in him being named JLT Sheffield Shield player of the season last summer, and selection for next month's Australia A tour of India soon followed.

His elite four-day numbers will no doubt have piqued the interest of national selectors ahead of Australia’s two-Test series against Pakistan in October.

But it’s Tremain’s record on docile MCG tracks that could be the deciding factor in facilitating a return to the international arena for the first time since making his debut on Australia’s winless ODI tour of South Africa in 2016.

All five of the first-class games held on Victoria's home turf last season were draws, including the Boxing Day Ashes Test, which prompted criticism from both captains and a 'poor' pitch rating from the ICC. 

Yet in nine matches over the past three summers on that bowlers' graveyard, Tremain’s returns at the MCG largely mirror his dominant form elsewhere, collecting 39 wickets at 21.33.

February: Tremain claims seven scalps for Victoria

"You almost have to swallow your pride," the 26-year-old told cricket.com.au of the Bushrangers’ approach to bowling at the MCG.

"When you think of Australian fast bowlers, you think bounce and pace and nicks to second and third slip. Whereas at the MCG, we (only) have half an hour on the first day where it might be like that. 

"One thing that we found worked really well at the MCG was still bowling defensively but keeping aggressive fields. We would swallow our pride and put blokes in front of the wicket and see if we could bore teams out." 

The brutal lessons the Bushrangers have learnt not only helped deliver three straight Shield titles between 2015 and 2017 (of which Tremain played in two), they may also give the right-armer an edge when Australia's selectors pick their squad for the Pakistan series.

Star quicks Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood are automatic selections, but all three are currently on the mend from injuries and selectors may be reluctant to push them too hard in unfavourable conditions given the six home Tests that await this summer.

Even if all three of the Ashes-winning pace attack are passed fit, the two four-day matches against India A in Vizag in early September could be crucial in determining the auxiliary pacemen for UAE tour. 

November '16: Tremain's four lifts Bushrangers at the 'G

"I've actually never played in India but the mindset of respecting the grind of a pretty tough wicket will put me in good stead," continued Tremain, one of four specialist quicks alongside Joel Paris, Michael Neser and Brendan Doggett in the four-day Australia A squad. 

"I'm not really sure what we're going to get over there. 

"We'll react to the conditions as best we can and if they do end up being a bit like the MCG, then myself and (fellow Victorian) Jon Holland could have some input into how we can take some wickets."

LEADING SHEFFIELD SHIELD BOWLERS SINCE '15-16

Chris Tremain – 129 wickets @ 20.39

Chadd Sayers – 111 @ 23.65

Joe Mennie – 108 @ 24.59

Dan Worrall – 104 @ 27.38

Scott Boland – 100 @ 25.15

Jackson Bird – 95 @ 21.65

Trent Copeland – 86 @ 27.97

Jon Holland – 76 @ 22.00

Jack Wildemuth – 74 @ 27.15

Simon Mackin – 74 @ 28.00

Australia A Tour of India

Australia A four-day squad: Mitchell Marsh (c), Alex Carey (vc), Ashton Agar, Brendan Doggett, Peter Handscomb, Travis Head, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Michael Neser, Joel Paris, Kurtis Patterson, Matthew Renshaw, Mitch Swepson, Chris Tremain

Australia A one-day squad: Travis Head (c), Alex Carey (vc), Ashton Agar, Peter Handscomb, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Michael Neser, Matthew Renshaw, Jhye Richardson, D’Arcy Short, Billy Stanlake, Mitch Swepson, Chris Tremain, Jack Wildermuth

Schedule

One-day fixtures in Vijayawada

17 August v India A

19 August v South Africa A

23 August v India A

25 August v South Africa A

29 August – Tri-Series Final

Four-day fixtures in Vizag

2 – 5 September v India A

8 – 11 September v India A

Tickets on sale now