Sheffield Shield 2016-17

Dogged Victoria grind Redbacks into dust

Led by half-centuries to Aaron Finch and Dan Christian, the Bushrangers continue batting towards title-clinching draw

Louis Cameron, at Traeger Park, Alice Springs

29 March 2017, 06:56 PM

Day four highlights: Finch, Christian lead charge

Victoria are on the brink of a history-making third successive Sheffield Shield title, as they ground South Australia into dry outback dirt in the competition's showpiece event in Alice Springs.

The valiant Redbacks made steady inroads on the penultimate day of the Shield final but they were left to rue the 200-run deficit they'd given up as their vaunted pace-attack, and a collection of part-timers, were forced to labour for a fourth successive day of bowling.

They finished the day 454 runs behind as Victoria reached 6-254, led by a carefully-constructed 83 from Aaron Finch and a dogged 53 not out from 178 balls by Dan Christian, finishing day four with one hand on the silverware.

With only 90 overs remaining in the match and Victoria batting coach David Hussey conceding on ABC Grandstand commentary he's "not sure the word declaration is in Cameron White's vocabulary," South Australia would need a miracle to claim their first Shield crown in 21 years.

The highest successful fourth-innings run-chase in a Shield final is the 239 scored by Victoria in the 1990-91 decider, while 372 is the highest overall fourth-innings tally in a final.

The overall Shield record for a last-innings chase is 506, achieved by the Redbacks in 1992, but they took more than 150 overs to track the mammoth total down.

Going into the day with their 'hosts' holding a 238-run lead, South Australia started another sweltering morning in the field aiming to add to the two scalps they'd taken the previous evening.

Paceman Daniel Worrall (2-46) removed Chris Tremain to end the Redbacks' fears of the nightwatchman repeating his heroics from his last game in this ground, where he struck a maiden first-class century performing the same duty.

With the wicket of Tremain, South Australia wicketkeeper Alex Carey pouched his sixth catch of the match to effect his 59th dismissal of the season, breaking the all-time Sheffield Shield single-season record.

Carey breaks Shield record with 59th dismissal

There were handshakes for the 25-year-old, who also joined Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Wade and Chris Hartley, players Carey admits he grew up idolising, as glovemen to have scored 500 runs and effected 50 dismissals in a Shield season.

But aside from Jake Weatherald bowling Finch around his legs just before the tea break, the Darwin-product's maiden Shield wicket in his first over bowled in any domestic cricket, the Redbacks had few other causes for celebration.

Even when Zampa (1-59) woke up a rare demon lurking beneath the arid Traeger Park track, South Australia would likely have only been disheartened considering they'll need a record last-innings total on the same 22-yards.

Zampa 'bouncer' leaps out of the footmarks

The delivery in question exploded out of the footmarks outside Finch's leg-stump, the ball shooting past the right-hander's head to elude both batsman and 'keeper.

Undeterred, Finch survived a couple of tight lbw decisions, a strong shout before lunch from tireless paceman Chadd Sayers (1-55) appearing particularly close, and pressed on with an important knock.

The right-hander was quite content at padding away Zampa bowling from around the wicket, with the wrist-spinner struggling to pose the same threat Victoria tweaker Jon Holland did with his seven-wicket haul on day three.

A couple of huge Finch heaves off Zampa resulting in boundaries down the ground were the exception, as the former Australia T20 captain largely shelved his destructive instincts, with even his unexpected dismissal to Weatherald coming with no shot offered.

South Australia's quicks toiled hard but the surface blunted their major weapons, with the slips-cordon replaced by a short mid-wicket cordon for much of the day, where as many four fielders were stationed at times.

In all, skipper Travis Head rotated through nine different bowlers in the innings, with Carey and Callum Ferguson the only two players not to have been asked to roll the arm over in search of a match-turning spell.

That didn't come for the Redbacks, and after Cameron White was lbw to Joe Mennie for 12, Victoria pushed their lead past 350 during the second session, and then past 400 during the last.

While Christian lashed out to dispatch a rank full-toss from Jake Lehmann, bowling left-arm off-spin like his famous father though unusually preferring to keep his hat on while doing so, the journeyman allrounder was quite content to just occupy the crease.

He found a willing ally in Gotch (29 off 115 balls), who batted for an entire session for the second time in this match as he put on just 67 with Christian at the crease between tea and stumps.

And although Redbacks coach Jamie Siddons played a major role in both of the aforementioned record Shield chases, striking an unbeaten 124 to guide Victoria to the title in 1992 before scoring 87 of the 506 fourth-innings runs against SA later that year, his stirring words would appear futile at this stage.