Marsh Sheffield Shield 2020-21
Wet weather forces Shield draw as Handscomb shines
Rain washed out Victoria's push for victory but the form of their captain has their coach very excited
Louis Cameron at the MCG
8 March 2021, 06:55 PM AEST
Victoria’s push to seize second spot on the Marsh Sheffield Shield standings has been nixed by bad weather but their captain Peter Handscomb is on the verge of "another coming" after a technical breakthrough, says coach Chris Rogers.
Handscomb passed fifty for a third consecutive innings as a 95-run fourth-day partnership with Marcus Harris flipped the tables on Tasmania, who squandered the edge they had eked out over three stubbornly-fought days on a spicy MCG pitch within a couple of hours.
Chasing 253 to win, Victoria reached 1-122 before consistent misty rain set in during the afternoon and denied them the chance to move into a Shield final spot with two games to play.
But Rogers believes Handscomb, fresh off a first-innings 73 against the Tigers and a match-saving 124no against a strong NSW attack, is in rare touch.
The 29-year-old, whose last Test came two years ago against India, made technical changes two weeks ago during Victoria’s draw with the Blues at Bankstown Oval following a mid-game discussion with his former state teammate Rogers
"When Pat Cummins was coming hard at him, he almost started to merge his old style and his new style (of batting)," Rogers said of Handscomb, whose batting style came under the microscope during his 16 Tests with Australia.
"He went back to standing a little more on his right foot – his back foot – but then still using the shape when he was trying to learn he was on the front foot. It actually looked like he is really balanced now.
"He fell over in the first innings of that game at Bankstown to be lbw, but has almost figured a couple of things out (since then) and I’ve never seen him play better.
"Some of those on-drives, the pull shots and the calmness I think has been pretty good. I’m really hoping we’ll see another coming of Peter Handscomb."
Just 33.2 overs of play were possible on the final day, meaning Victoria's rise to third above Western Australia will only last until Tuesday when the other two Shield matches finish, though the Vics have a game in hand over both WA and second-placed NSW.
Tasmania meanwhile have had their hopes of making the final severely dented as they remain in fifth with two games to play.
"Considering how well we bowled in the first innings it was a bit disappointing we didn’t apply that same sort of pressure – myself included," said fast bowler Jackson Bird, who stood in for Tim Paine as Tigers captain.
"We were two sides of the wicket and bit two sides of a length as well. But, bar me and Sidds (Peter Siddle), we've got a pretty inexperienced bowling attack."
The game resumed on a knife's edge on Monday morning and the early loss of Nic Maddinson only added to the weight on the shoulders of Victoria's two most experienced batters in Handscomb and Harris.
But the Victorian skipper picked up where he left off in the first innings, driving down the ground with assuredness.
Harris was put down twice at first slip in the space of six balls when Bird failed to grasp a flashing nick that carried waist-high catch off Nathan Ellis before Beau Webster was bizarrely struck in the back on the full having moved the wrong way anticipating the left-hander's edged cut shot.
Tasmania, who had scrapped for 263 second-innings runs at a little over two runs per over, had their pain compounded as their bowlers went at more than double that rate in the opening session.
Handscomb pulled Ellis for six on the final ball before the first rain delay and then punished a wayward Bird for dropping short when the skies cleared after lunch to bring up a 54-ball half-century.
That was before steady drizzle put paid to any further play.
Victoria host Tasmania again on Wednesday at the Junction Oval in a Marsh One-Day Cup clash.