Marsh Sheffield Shield 2020-21
Evergreen Henriques rights Blues after wobbly start
Blues senior batter combines with youngster Solway to put NSW in a commanding position at stumps
Andrew Ramsey at Gladys Elphick Park in Adelaide
19 October 2020, 06:27 PM AEST
After a wobbly start to their Marsh Sheffield Shield defence, it was evergreen Moises Henriques and apprentice Adelaide 'expert' Daniel Solway who got New South Wales back on track and, ultimately, ascendant against a disciplined Western Australia attack.
The Blues might have made a delayed start to the 2020-21 season after their planned round one encounter against Victoria was postponed, but ended the first day of their campaign in ominously similar shape to last summer when they claimed their 47th Shield title.
Henriques, who was his team's second-highest Shield runs scorer last season, completed his 11th Shield hundred during the final hour when he swept spinner Ashton Agar to the fine leg boundary and ended the day 134 not out.
He had scored 13 when joined in the middle by 25-year-old Solway (68no), whose sole Shield century to date came in his debut match against South Australia at nearby Adelaide Oval a year ago, shortly before lunch and the pair put together a defiant, unbeaten fourth-wicket stand of 191.
That union ensured NSW ended the day on top at 3-262, after three wickets in the opening session initially vindicated WA skipper Shaun Marsh's decision to bowl.
The pitch at Gladys Elphick Park might have changed markedly since the days Blues and Australia spinner Nathan Lyon was in charge of its preparation, but it was expected to be largely similar to the deck upon which Queensland defeated Tasmania by an innings a week earlier.
That result was set up by Queensland seamer Michael Neser's first-day flurry that netted him five wickets, and when the Blues slid to 3-71 shortly before lunch today it seemed Marsh's ploy to maximise the new ball on a fresh pitch was working.
But as was the case last week, once the track flattened out it proved difficult to dislodge set batters and so it was with the NSW pair who survived a few shouts for lbw with the ball rarely threatening much over stump height, but were otherwise cautiously unfussed.
The clearest indication of the pitch's nature came during the final session when WA opening bowler Matthew Kelly was operating with a ball almost 70 overs worn, with keeper Josh Inglis standing up to the stumps.
"We knew the wicket was going to be good for the duration of this game," WA batter Ashton Turner said at day's end.
"We probably thought it would do a little bit more than it did in the first and second sessions, but that can happen sometimes.
"It's a ground we're unfamiliar with and we haven't played a lot here, so if we had our time again we might have made a different decision.
"But that being said, it doesn't look like it's going to deteriorate too much, it's still in really good shape and there's a lot of hard work to do for us out there."
WA's best chance of removing Henriques once he had settled was the run out chance that came when he was on 85 and stole a risky single to mid-off, but even if the throw had hit the stumps the 33-year-old desperate dive might have meant he made good his ground.
As it was, the only damage done was to Henriques' pad strap that was busted in the minor drama but he quickly settled back into stride and eased to his hundred shortly before the second new-ball was taken.
Solid in defence to cover any potential movement from the seamers off the pitch's thatchy grass cover, the former Test allrounder punished anything short and was at his most imposing when pulling or cutting on the placid surface.
The powerful right-hander was recognised as a prodigious talent while still at school and made his Shield debut as a teenager in 2006, but the measure of his consistency is shown by a batting return of at least one Shield ton in eight of his past nine summers with NSW.
He has increasingly become a batting specialist during that time, largely because of the vast seam bowling depth the Blues currently boast, but still sent down valuable overs in three of his team's nine Shield games last summer and could prove a difficult proposition as this pitch wears.
He received doughty support today from Solway who has been a prolific scorer in Sydney's Premier Cricket competition over recent years but, owing to the calibre of batters in NSW when internationals are available, hadn't been able to crack first-class cricket until last year.
He finished his maiden Shield summer with 498 runs – a tally exceeded for the champions by Henriques (512) and opener Daniel Hughes (665) - at an average of 55.33, and today played unobtrusive but invaluable second-fiddle to his senior partner.
Well put away by Solway. Watch #SheffieldShield live: https://t.co/IX9Uy6uBXH pic.twitter.com/Utch8i5uLx— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) October 19, 2020
The Blues had begun in breezy fashion, scoring at almost three runs per over against a four-pronged seam attack that featured left-armer Liam Guthrie and 21-year-old all-rounder Aaron Hardie instead of Joel Paris and rookie Lance Morris who were deployed in last week's win over SA.
Paris was ruled out with a hamstring strain while 22-year-old Morris reported pain in his side following his debut match against SA at Karen Rolton Oval last week and is awaiting a diagnosis on the nature of the injury.
It was Guthrie who struck the first blow for WA in the 20th over when he tempted Nick Larkin into a hook shot that floated obligingly into the hands of Kelly at fine leg.
Guthrie was the recipient of a similar gift three overs later when ex-Test batter Kurtis Patterson flicked a short ball delivered around the wicket by WA recruit Cameron Gannon languidly to the only fielder in the deep on the leg side.
A horror way to go for Kurtis Patterson! Watch #SheffieldShield live: https://t.co/IX9Uy6uBXH pic.twitter.com/1gE3AqCgAr— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) October 19, 2020
The profligate run of dismissals continued soon after when Hughes drove airily at a wide delivery from Hardie who also operated around the wicket to the left-hander, and Ashton Turner clutched a neat catch tumbling low to his left at second slip.
It had been the overly adventurous nature of NSW's batting rather than first-day demons in the pitch that had enabled to WA to claim honours in the opening session, but the game's complexion changed in each of the subsequent stanzas.
The afternoon session was an arm wrestle as WA's bowlers – especially Agar, who sent down 12 overs for 15 runs – strangled the scoring, with the NSW pair adding 68 from 32 overs with Henriques contributing 46 of them.
Then, as the sun dipped low and the bowlers' energy levels followed a similar trajectory, the Blues took control scoring 121 from 36 overs and experiencing few troubles against the new ball with the duo who righted the ship today raring to resume tomorrow morning.
"More often than not, you'll get a chance late in the day from a lazy shot but today I thought credit to the guys who are not out, they played really well and we didn’t get any chances," Turner said.
"I think our bowlers did a pretty good job to keep them under 300 without taking many wickets."
NSW Blues: Daniel Hughes, Nick Larkin, Kurtis Patterson, Moises Henriques, Daniel Solway, Jason Sangha, Peter Nevill (c, wk), Sean Abbott, Trent Copeland, Nathan Lyon, Harry Conway
Western Australia: Cameron Bancroft, Sam Whiteman, Shaun Marsh (c), Cameron Green, Ashton Turner, Ashton Agar, Josh Inglis (wk), Aaron Hardie, Matthew Kelly, Cameron Gannon, Liam Guthrie.