Marsh Sheffield Shield 2019-20
Sheffield Shield season review: South Australia
Callum Ferguson reflects on the Redbacks' Sheffield Shield season, which ended with another bottom-placed finish despite a drought-breaking win
24 March 2020, 03:12 PM AEST
Marsh Sheffield Shield Sixth (won two, lost five, drew two)
Leading run scorer Tom Cooper (765 runs @ 54.64, 1x100, 4x50, High 271no)
Leading wicket-taker Wes Agar (33 wickets @ 24.21, econ 2.75, best 5-53)
For the third time in as many Shield summers, South Australia finished bottom of the table and now find themselves in the market for a new coach. It represents a sharp fall on the back of consecutive Shield final appearances in 2015-16 and 2016-17, although the Redbacks did finish third in this season's Marsh One-Day Cup competition.
Experienced batter Tom Cooper returned to form early in the summer to finish second on the Shield run-scorers list, while debutant quick Wes Agar was equal-second among the leading wicket takers.
In purely statistical terms, SA scored more runs than any rival team in the Shield season (4,879) but also conceded the most (5,134) and their losing percentage of five defeats from nine matches was the worst in the competition, suggesting a distinct frailty at the back-end of matches.
But despite the lack of on-field success and the upheaval that led to coach Jamie Siddons' departure shortly before the season reached its premature end, Callum Ferguson believes the team improved on their efforts of the preceding summer.
The veteran batter and former Australia representative pointed to the Redbacks' increased competitiveness despite limited success, plus the emergence of Bradman Young Cricketer of the Year Agar and rookie opener Henry Hunt (both 23) as reasons to head into an uncertain off season with a positive feeling for what lies ahead.
Ferguson, who was SA's fourth-highest run scorer with 451 at 32.21 this Shield season, reflects on the Redbacks' 2019-20 campaign.
Where it went right
"We got ourselves into some strong positions on the last two days of a lot of games, whereas in the previous 12 months we'd not been anywhere near as competitive.
"The fact we were in winning positions, on top of the couple of victories we did record is a good sign for us, along with the development of some of the younger players, in particular Hunt and Agar.
"Hunt's batting at the top of the order (487 runs at 28.65) showed a lot, given it's been a pretty tough ask for everyone against the new ball for the last few years, and he is one to watch over the next couple of seasons.
"And the workload that Agar shouldered this year, across all formats, was incredible for such a young guy in his first year of first-class cricket.
"Those guys, along with Tom Cooper's batting at five or six where it was great to see him back to his best, they were the real positives for us."
Where it went wrong
"We just lacked the ability to land the knockout blow at crucial times.
"We got into some pretty strong positions, and in Shield cricket when you're in a run chase on day four and you're taking the bit between the teeth, if you leave your tail-enders exposed the end can come pretty quickly.
"We found ourselves in that position a couple of times during run chases, and with the ball we missed a couple of chances to bowl sides out.
"Obviously our coach had a tough time of it for a while as well.
"That can unsettle a squad sometimes, but I feel like everyone handled that really well and (assistant coaches) Greg Blewett and Luke Butterworth did a fantastic job taking over the reins while Jamie (Siddons) was away recovering.
"We've got some really strong leaders within the group and they shouldered a bit of the load, so I don't think we'd be looking at that as an excuse for our results."
"If you were just looking at the Shield season it's Wes Agar; and if you're looking across the whole summer and taking all three formats into account, it's Wes Agar.
"He was fantastic.
"The overs he bowled, and not just those aggressive 'strike' spells of three or four overs, he also bowled some really long spells at different stages throughout the year when it was required.
"There's not many guys that have hit the circuit quite as hard as he did this year and he's got higher honours ahead of him, there's no doubt in my mind.
"He's level-headed, he's worked really hard and he's learned a lot about his game this season.
"His physical conditioning over the last couple of years has improved out of sight, so I couldn’t be more pleased for him."
Best individual bowling performance
"Chadd Sayers when he took 8-64 against New South Wales in his first game of the season at Adelaide Oval.
"I was fielding first slip throughout, and so I had the best seat in the house.
"It really was a clinic of swing and seam bowling on a wicket that offered a little bit, but it was still a pretty good one for batting.
"He was absolutely brilliant and it was exactly what you expect from Chadd Sayers – just relentless at the batter, and he got the rewards so that was something special."
Best individual batting performance
"I can't go past Tom Cooper's 271 not out against Victoria at the Junction Oval in the opening round of the season.
"It was a pretty flat wicket, but you've still got to get them and for it to be an undefeated knock only adds to the achievement.
"Plus it came against a high quality attack that generally bowls pretty well on flat pitches.
"So it was a hell of an effort."
"While the win against Tasmania in Hobart was the one that broke the drought (of 18 Shield games without victory), I think the next game against Western Australia after they sent us in at Adelaide Oval – which usually has a bit in it for seamers on day one – was our best.
"We put 389 on the board thanks to the way our guys batted on that first day, and then drove the game the whole way.
"It was also our first win at home for a couple of years, and it's always nice to have success in front of your fans.'
"So if you look at it sentimentally, breaking the drought against Tasmania was huge for us.
"But from the game's perspective, after losing the toss at home and then putting on the batting performance we did to set up the WA game, that was probably the better win in cricket terms."
Funniest moment of the season
"We love Daniel Worrall and he brings plenty to the table, both on and off the park.
"Frankie probably hit career-best form with the bat in the second half of the year (where he averaged 37), and he was asked 'when was the last hit you had in the nets? You've been in unbelievable touch, everything's hitting the middle of the bat, you're smacking huge sixes but we haven't seen you in the nets'.
"And he said 'I have absolutely no recollection of my last hit in the nets against a red cricket ball'.
"Turns out the only net session with the bat he could remember was during the Big Bash when (Melbourne Stars coach) David Hussey forced him in there – he virtually had to strap the pads on for him, and shove him into the nets with a pitchfork.
"Then he went out there in Shield matches and tried to hit the majority of balls as far as he could, but made some amazing contributions with the bat.
"So that was his secret for batting, and I can't see him going back in the nets anytime soon."
Players' player of the season
"We've got a lot of guys in our side who all play for the team and have a great passion for the state, but for this season I think it's got to be Wes Agar.
"The way he tore in for us all year, through little niggles at times as well and he played every game apart from the first Shield game against Victoria.
"It was a lion-hearted performance for such a young player, and I think everyone really had a great appreciation for what he brought in his first Shield season."
Toughest team to face
"New South Wales have got so many different facets to their game.
"They've got great depth, and they're a side that will keep coming at you and keep trying to find a way to win.
"Plus they've got a fantastic leader in Peter Nevill and some great senior players, so it didn't surprise me they were so far out in front when the season was called off.
"Having played against them in different conditions – on a wicket that offered a bit to the bowlers in Adelaide, and then the way they went about the game on a totally different track at Bankstown - they showed the qualities you'd expect of a side that's leading the Shield and going on to win it."
Your overall Shield player of the season
"I think it's got to be Nic Maddinson.
"To make 780 runs from 10 hits after missing a few games in the first half of the season, that's a pretty remarkable and dominant effort.
"When he came back into that Victorian side, they just started winning when he scored runs - and he scored runs pretty much every time he went out to bat."