Marsh One-Day Cup 2021
SA name rookie as they aim to avoid unwanted history
The Redbacks will be hoping to secure their first win in what's been a difficult 2020-21 season against the Bulls
19 March 2021, 03:22 PM AEST
South Australia have added another fresh face to their squad for next week's Marsh Sheffield Shield match against Queensland as they look to avoid some unwanted history from a season so-far devoid of success.
Sam Kerber, a 26-year-old batter who also bowls handy left-arm orthodox spin, has been included for the first time in the Redbacks' 13-man squad for the game in Brisbane starting next Tuesday.
Left-arm seamer Nick Winter has also been recalled to the squad having recovered from a hamstring injury, while SA's leading Shield wicket-taker for the summer Chadd Sayers (12 wickets at 47.58) will remain in Adelaide for the birth of his second child with wife Stephanie.
Kerber, originally from Victoria where he represented the state at under-19 level, is currently the leading run scorer in Adelaide Premier Cricket having also topped the aggregate last summer with 817 at an average of 90.78 for Adelaide University.
The left-hander is one of eight specialist batters in the SA squad (including keeper Alex Carey) and could earn his maiden Shield cap at the expense of rookie left-arm wrist spinner Joe Medew-Ewen as SA search for their first win of the season.
Redbacks coach Jason Gillespie had earlier foreshadowed that he and fellow selectors James Pyke (chair) and Shaun Williams (SACA talent manager) "have to look at everything" to try and improve performance which has plumbed new depths this season.
SA are yet to record a win from six Marsh Sheffield Shield starts and three Marsh One Day Cup fixtures, with two games remaining in each competition.
Should they fail to snare a victory from those outings, they will become the first men's team to go through a summer of top-level interstate cricket without success in either format since Tasmania's pair of winless seasons from 1984-86.
However, that was when the domestic one-day competition was played essentially as a knock-out tournament and teams were restricted to one or two matches before finals between the top-ranked outfits.
Since the one-day cup adopted a round-robin format 30 years ago, no team has gone winless in both competitions across a single summer.
The cause of the Redbacks woes can be found in some equally stark statistics.
Not only have they failed to claim 10 opposition wickets in any of their 10 bowling innings so far this Shield season, the 51 scalps they've claimed have come at a cost of 70.10 runs apiece.
In the almost 130 years of Shield cricket, no team has averaged more than 62.85 runs per wicket across a summer (Western Australia in 1963-64) and the lowest number of wickets claimed in a season of six matches or more is the 62 (at 47.85) captured by NSW in 1938-39.
As Gillespie pointed out in the wake of SA's fighting Shield loss to NSW last week, that lack of penetration can be partly attributed to fielding an inexperienced attack against highly credentialled rivals.
Against NSW, that included seamer David Grant (in his sixth Shield game), allrounder Liam Scott (seventh) and Medew-Ewen (on debut) against a Blues line-up featuring Australia representatives David Warner, Kurtis Patterson, Moises Henriques, Sean Abbott and Peter Nevill.
There is also hope the return to Premier Cricket last weekend of strike bowler Wes Agar – who sat out the NSW game – where he took 10 wickets for Adelaide University will help him recapture the form of last summer when he was named Bradman Young Cricketer of the Year.
Agar has struggled for rhythm and results this season, and his four wickets from five Shield games to date have cost him just over 144 runs each.
But it's not only SA's bowlers who have found going tough this summer.
The Redbacks' fielders have dropped more catches (14) than any rival Shield team, while their catching success rate of 74 per cent is the only one in the six-team competition below 80 per cent.
In addition, SA is the only team not to have completed a run out so far this Shield season but they have lost more wickets to run-outs (four) when batting than any of their opponents, with three of those being specialist batters before they had reached a score of 25.
And while they boast three batters among the top 10 runs scorers for the 2020-21 Shield season (Travis Head, Henry Hunt and Harry Nielsen), Head (72.82) is the only one of the trio to average more than 40 in a summer where 20 players across the competition currently average 50 or above.
A barren summer completes a difficult past year for the SA Cricket Association.
It's 12 months since they parted ways with former coach Jamie Siddons, a move that was followed several weeks later by revelations the COVID-19 pandemic had inflicted significant economic damage to SACA which relied heavily on football and other events at Adelaide Oval for revenue.
The financial fall-out that ensued meant the hunt for Siddons' replacement was put on hold, and the Redbacks squad undertook its off-season program without a head coach and with cutbacks to support staff.
Then, in July last year, the SACA released findings of former Test player Mike Hussey's review of its men's cricket operations that was commissioned earlier in the year with a focus on the Redbacks' inability to win Shield titles having lifted the trophy just twice in the preceding 44 summers.
Among Hussey's recommendations were that SACA "must be process, rather than outcomes driven" and their recruiting strategy should be improved to target the "10th-15th best players interstate" as well as the best uncontracted under-19 players from around Australia.
The review was prompted by the team's last-placed finish in the previous three Shield campaigns but, based on current ladder positions (with SA three points adrift of fifth-placed Tasmania), they seem set to collect their fourth consecutive wooden spoon.
That would equal the longest stints at the foot of the Shield ladder since it was expanded to six teams in 1977-78, with Tasmania (1984-88) and SA (2009-13) the others to have finished last four seasons on the trot.
Gillespie was named as Siddons' replacement last August while at the helm of UK county side Sussex, and due to contractual and quarantine requirements he was not directly involved in SA's contracting or pre-season training and did not meet his players face-to-face until during their second Shield match of this season.
But he also believes the restrictions enforced due to COVID-19 throughout the current summer – which included his Adelaide Strikers squad making a frantic dash to Coffs Harbour last November to avoid Adelaide's lockdown – have added to the trials of his first season in charge.
"There's been challenges this year, with arriving back late from Sussex and then quarantining," Gillespie said after SA were humbled by Tasmania in their Marsh One Day Cup clash last Friday.
"Then having to up sticks with the outbreak in Adelaide and having to go up (to Coffs Harbour), I haven't actually got to spend as much time with the Redbacks squad as I would have liked because during the Big Bash I wasn't able to get out to their sessions.
"It's certainly not an excuse but I'm still getting my feet under the table and understanding how all the dynamics work and getting to know the players.
"They are really important things, and building those relationships with all the players and the staff is really important to me.
"But even if results aren't going our way we need to see improvement, and there has been glimpses of that.
"It's important to change perceptions of South Australian cricket as well.
"It drives me nuts, and it's been going on for a while now.
"Everyone kicks us when we're down and we're going to make sure we're doing everything we can to turn it around."
SA's squad for the Marsh One-Day Cup fixture against Queensland on March 28 will be named in coming days.
SA Shield squad: Travis Head (c), Alex Carey (wk), Wes Agar, David Grant, Henry Hunt, Sam Kerber, Jake Lehmann, Joe Medew-Ewen, Harry Nielsen, Liam Scott, Jake Weatherald, Nick Winter, Daniel Worrall.