Marsh Sheffield Shield 2019-20
Vics left fuming as Redbacks refuse to manufacture target
Peter Handscomb bowled himself and Marcus Harris for extended spells while James Pattinson turned to off-spin against South Australia
Louis Cameron at the Junction Oval
12 October 2019, 07:04 PM AEST
Disgruntled Victoria captain Peter Handscomb lamented South Australia's refusal to set up a final-day run chase in their Marsh Sheffield Shield clash, as the match he labelled "boring" and "pointless" descended into farce on Saturday.
The reigning Shield champions elected not to use their frontline bowlers for the majority of the third day’s last session as Tom Cooper (188 not out) and Tom Andrews (75 not out) filled their boots on a lifeless Junction Oval surface that has seen just 11 wickets fall for a combined 1,143 runs across 287 overs.
Cooper was caught in the middle of negotiations while he batted during a "weird" evening session as the two sides failed to come an agreement on a fourth-day target for the Redbacks to chase.
Where James Pattinson should have been proving his Test credentials with repeated spells in a competitive fixture, the fast bowler instead bowled two overs of off-spin as shadows extended across the ground.
Handscomb and Marcus Harris, neither of whom have taken a first-class wicket in their 102- and 86-game careers respectively, bowled 18 overs between them and stationed up to six fielders on the boundary as their lead gradually dwindled.
"There can't be anyone listening to this," one-Test spinner Bryce McGain said on commentary for the game's live stream.
Handscomb said his opposite number Travis Head, who had earlier in the day struck a hard-fought half-century, declined an offer to set-up a fourth-day target.
"We were trying to get a game going – we thought 350 off 80 overs was going to be a fair target to chase," said the home side’s skipper.
"We couldn't come to an agreement on a pretty flat wicket. We thought that (our offer) was fine but turns out it wasn't. Eighty overs still isn't long enough to get 10 wickets but it sure as hell is long enough to get 350 runs, which we thought was pretty good."
Asked if he was annoyed, Handscomb said: "Yes … just annoyed the game is dead on day three.
"We've got two more sessions tomorrow of dead cricket, I've got to put my bowlers back out there and tie my (shoelaces) for a pointless game.
"We're all going to walk away from here with a draw, whereas we could have been competing for something tomorrow. Both teams could have been competing for a win tomorrow. Now it's just going to fizzle out for a draw.
"We'll shake hands at tea, tell everyone thanks for coming, sorry for such a boring game of Shield cricket… they come here and get a draw and that's it. Normally we beat them."
Harris and Handscomb got through their overs so quickly that Victorian fielders, eager not to bowl any more than they had to, stood around and took an extended drinks break before the final six balls of the day were to be bowled.
Cooper, who scored his 13th first-class century on what he conceded was the flattest pitch he's ever played on, was for a time the messenger between the two sides.
"I don't know what was going on behind the scenes but they obviously couldn't agree on anything," he explained.
"It was an interesting couple of hours of first-class cricket, I can't say I've experienced that before. The frontline bowlers not bowling – it was a weird feeling.
"I was caught in the middle of it as a messenger. They couldn't come to a compromise and that's how it panned out.
"The pleasing thing was we were able to still not throw it away. Going into the day we were under pressure to keep ourselves in it and not fold under the pressure of a mammoth first-innings total. That was very pleasing."
South Australia, who finished bottom of the Shield table last season and haven't won any of their previous 13 first-class games, were 5-527 at the close of play, trailing Victoria by 89 runs after the home side had piled on 6-616 before declaring on day two.
Alex Carey earlier blazed a brilliant century when both teams appeared to be doing everything to push for a result, smashing seven sixes in a breathtaking 115-ball knock.
It was overshadowed by the scenes that followed later in the afternoon, as was opener Henry Hunt's composed 75 on debut, while Head compiled 51 off 184 balls – the slowest half-century of his first-class career – as he looks to win back his Test place.
Handscomb insisted the initial stages of the game had at least allowed contenders to advance their Test cases.
"There's still been enough in the first two-and-a-half days for guys to showcase their skills," he said. "There's still enough there to push for selection."
Victoria were forced to use two substitute fielders for much of the day (one was Test veteran Peter Siddle, the other was teenager Billy Cootee) after Nic Maddinson joined Aaron Finch on the injury list.
Maddinson was struck on the finger while fielding at short leg in a nasty blow off James Pattinson, while Finch is suffering from back spasms.
Victoria XI: Marcus Harris, Nic Maddinson, Will Pucovski, Peter Handscomb (c), Aaron Finch, Glenn Maxwell, Sam Harper (wk), James Pattinson, Chris Tremain, Scott Boland, Jon Holland.
South Australia XI: Jake Weatherald, Henry Hunt, Jake Lehmann, Travis Head (c), Tom Cooper, Alex Carey (wk), Tom Andrews, Nick Winter, Adam Zampa, Kane Richardson, Luke Robins.