JLT Sheffield Shield 2017-18

Pucovski concern overshadows Shield

Victoria hold handy lead in tense match but latest headblow to talented youngster leaves sour taste after eventful day

Cricket Network

4 March 2018, 07:05 PM AEST

Super SOK's elite eight a career-best haul

A blow to head for talented Victoria batsman Will Pucovski took the gloss off an otherwise enthralling day of JLT Sheffield Shield cricket in a finely poised match with the NSW Blues at Melbourne's Junction Oval.

At stumps, Victoria had reached 5-156 for a handy lead of 184 runs on a bowler-friendly pitch.

Victoria opener Travis Dean anchored the innings with a gritty 64 not out, while Glenn Maxwell added a typically hard-hitting 33 before he was dismissed by seamer Sean Abbott (1-26).

Abbott had earlier found himself the unwitting party, delivering the ball that batsman Will Pucovski ducked into to be struck on the left side of the head. Abbott was first on the scene, helping steady the 20-year-old and was later left visibly shaken by the experience.

Will Pucovski substituted after helmet hit

As teammates and opposition skipper Aaron Finch rallied around, Abbott saw out the over and continued his spell after Pucovski had retired hurt.

"It was pretty sad to see that happen," said Finch.

"He (Pucovski) came back to normal pretty quickly, and that was really good to see. I know there have been times when he was taken a while to do so.

"It was very scary. With his history of head knocks and with what happened to (Phillip Hughes) a few years ago, it is never nice to see anyone get hit."

Pucovski was assessed in the dressing rooms and substituted out of the match under CA's concussion guidelines and replaced in the Victoria XI by allrounder Dan Christian.

"Will Pucovski remained at the ground following the incident and is being treated by Cricket Victoria's medical staff," said Cricket Victoria doctor Trefor James.

"Will has been ruled out of the remainder of the match and we will continue to monitor him over the coming days, and we can then determine a return to play plan for him."

Christian, the second substitute to be used in Shield cricket following Jake Doran replacing Jordan Silk earlier this season, then had a nightwatchman come in for him late in the day.

Trent Copeland (4-26) snuck one through Seb Gotch with 13 balls left in the day as Victoria sent out Peter Siddle.

Copeland had earlier removed first-innings centurion Marcus Harris for 4 in the innings' fourth over. He later returned to struck twice in quick succession, removing Finch lbw for 14 before bowling Cameron White for a duck in consecutive overs.

NSW took the unusual step of opening the bowling with spinner Steve O'Keefe after the left-armer's eight-wicket haul had limited the Bushrangers to 199 on day one.

There was drama shortly before the tea interval when promising young batsman Will Pucovski was felled after a blow to the helmet, and subsituted out of the match under CA's concussion guidelines.

NSW had started the day at a precarious 4-65, and lost a steady flow of wickets throughout the morning session, to be dismissed for only 171 just after lunch to concede a deficit of 28 runs.

Victoria made an important breakthrough with in-form NSW allrounder Moises Henriques out lbw to Scott Boland for 24.

The last remaining recognised batsman, Kurtis Patterson, went for 43 and wicketkeeper Peter Nevill followed for a first-ball duck thanks to a superb catch at bat-pad by Travis Dean.

Debutant allrounder Param Uppal (20 not out) – who got off the mark in first-class cricket with a six whacked over the long-on fence from Glenn Maxwell's bowling – and Trent Copeland (29) sparked a mini-revival after the Blues were 7-112.

All five Victorian bowlers were among the wickets with paceman Boland (2-18) enjoying the best return.

The opening day was marked by unusually spin-friendly conditions, highlighted by a career-best return of 8-77 by NSW left-armer Steve O'Keefe.

Super SOK's elite eight a career-best haul

Neither side can afford a defeat in the penultimate round match with all six teams in the hunt for two final berths.

Victoria XI: Marcus Harris, Travis Dean, Glenn Maxwell, Will Pucovski (substituted for Dan Christian), Aaron Finch (c), Cameron White, Seb Gotch (wk), Chris Tremain, Peter Siddle, Scott Boland, Fawad Ahmed

NSW XI: Nick Larkin, Daniel Hughes, Ed Cowan, Kurtis Patterson, Moises Henriques, Param Uppal, Steve O'Keefe, Peter Nevill (c/wk), Trent Copeland, Sean Abbott, Harry Conway