JLT Sheffield Shield 2017-18
Neser swings from Adelaide hero to villain
A star in the Adelaide Strikers run to their maiden BBL title, locals were less impressed by Michael Neser's exploits in Queensland whites
Andrew Ramsey at the Adelaide Oval
26 February 2018, 08:56 PM AEST
It's not unfair to suggest that Michael Neser can claim a wider array of variations on his cricket resume than in the vast number of different deliveries he carries in his substantial T20 bowling armoury.
Born in South Africa but relocated to Queensland's Gold Coast with his family at age 10, Neser was an aspiring quick who instead turned to spin bowling and something of a batting specialist when he suffered back problems in early adolescence.
He only returned to pace bowling a decade ago when he was 17, and that brought about his next evolution from batting allrounder to a seam-bowling T20 specialist who has been integral to the success of the Adelaide Strikers in the KFC Big Bash League.
But now Neser is forging a new reputation as a formidable swing bowler at first-class level, as shown by his game-changing spell in familiar surrounds at the Adelaide Oval today when he ripped apart South Australia's batting in the JLT Sheffield Shield match that Queensland is dominating.
In getting the English-made Dukes ball to swing extravagantly against some of his Strikers' teammates more used to dealing with the 27-year-old's slower balls and laser-like yorkers, Neser produced one of the deliveries of the summer to knock over Australia ODI keeper Alex Carey.
"That's one of the better balls I've bowled," Neser said this evening of the delivery that pitched around leg stump and clipped the off-stump of the non-plussed left-hander in the midst of a spell that netted him 4-1 from 19 balls.
"It's unfortunate for him (Carey) because I don't think I've bowled a ball that good.
"So he got one of the better ones."
Three weeks ago, Neser was a hero to the more than 40,000 fans who packed into Adelaide Oval for the final of BBL|07 that saw the Strikers lift their maiden trophy with a 25-run win over the Hobart Hurricanes.
Today, for his first bowling stint back at the venue since that triumphant evening, he took the ball in front of less than 100 spectators, most of whom were quietly hoping that the seamer would prove less effective clad in whites for the Queensland Bulls.
Instead, Neser unleashed the second-best bowling performance of his 28-game first-class career, bettered only by the 6-57 he captured against Tasmania at Blundstone Arena earlier this summer.
In the process, he helped the ladder-leading Bulls take a sizeable step towards hosting their first Shield final since 2011-12 as the Redbacks were shot out for 162 in around 50 overs.
With Queensland's first-innings lead of 180 extended to 255 by the end of day two, for the loss of openers Lachlan Pfeffer (17) and Matthew Renshaw (12).
"Hopefuly I still have a few fans out there, it was a bit odd playing against some of my (Strikers) teammates but I suppose it's part of the game now," Neser said while downplaying suggestions he had exploited technical deficiencies he noted during BBL nets sessions for the Adelaide franchise.
"You do get used to bowling to certain batters, but on the other side they get used to facing you so it's still the same contest with bat and ball."
After he had SA's in-form batter Tom Cooper well caught behind the wicket, Neser's figures were a scarcely believable 4-9 having scythed through the Redbacks' middle-order as the hosts crumbled from 0-29 to 7-89.
That followed his removal of SA's most experienced player Callum Ferguson (19), aggressor Jake Lehmann (30 from 35 balls), Australia T20I representative Carey (for a second-ball duck) before the scalp of Cooper who scored a classy century in Sydney last week.
Neser's prowess with the Dukes ball was highlighted by the delivery that accounted for Carey, who has spent the past two months almost exclusively playing white-ball cricket either in the KFC Big Bash League or in limited-overs formats for his country.
Though it's doubtful a steady diet of long-form cricket could have equipped him for the ball that he copped today that looked to pitch in line with leg stump before veering violently across the left-hander to clip his off-stump.
And even though the amount of swing that Neser was able to generate with a ball barely 30 overs old was the defining feature of his devastating spell, it was the uncertainty that it caused among the Redbacks' batter that proved just as decisive.
With Ferguson trapped in two minds and pushing belatedly to edge a catch behind, Lehmann similarly unsure whether to play or leave and instead dragging back on to his stumps, and Cooper undone by a ball that seemed set to tail in at him but held its line and found a thin edge.
"I'm a fan of the Duke because it stays hard," Neser said of the English ball that has been used in concert with the locally made Kookaburra ball in the past two Shield seasons.
"I think the Kookaburra at times can get quite soft and then it just becomes a dead game.
"But the Dukes stays hard and it offers something all day and if you bat well, you get rewarded.
"I know the batters won't be saying it's a good ball, but as a bowler I'm enjoying it."