McDonald troubles Tigers after big night
Tasmania 8 for 189 (Bailey 73, McDonald 3-29) v Victoria
Andrew McDonald and his fast-bowling colleagues caused major problems for Tasmania on the MCG's first day of Sheffield Shield action for the season as the Tigers went to stumps at 8 for 189. George Bailey was the only batsman to show serious application on a pitch that shouldn't have been that difficult and at the close Gerard Denton was on 5 and Ben Hilfenhaus had 1.
Play finished half an hour early and 16 overs short as bad light set in but it was a predictable outcome. The first ball was not bowled until 1pm and stumps was scheduled for 7.50pm to give players from both sides time to fly back from Brisbane where several had taken part in Friday night's All-Stars Twenty20 match. Cricket Australia is keen to pursue day-night Tests and this match confirmed that red balls in the evening are not the way to go.
McDonald was one of the men who had made the rush to Melbourne but he showed no weariness after the late night; he finished with 3 for 29 and took two magnificent diving catches. He symbolised the sharpness in the Victoria outfit - no chances were dropped, the players hared through between overs and the fast men bowled with effort and purpose on a reasonably benign surface.
Even without key bowlers Peter Siddle, who is with the Test squad, Dirk Nannes, who was a late withdrawal with the flu, and Darren Pattinson, who has a groin injury, Victoria were constantly dangerous. Clint McKay and Damien Wright picked up two wickets each in the early stages as Tasmania wobbled to 5 for 62.
Only when Bailey and Luke Butterworth combined for a 62-run stand did Daniel Marsh's decision to bat begin to look like it might work out. But McDonald ended that partnership when Butterworth (25) clipped Shane Harwood to square leg, where McDonald hurled himself to his left and clasped a strong chance.
Bailey, renowned as a dasher, displayed impressive resolve in reaching 73 from 185 balls. He still found opportunities to hit the rope on eight occasions, including a swatted pull off his former Tigers team-mate Wright. But Bailey became another victim of Victoria's excellent fielding when he top-edged an attempted pull off McDonald and a deceptively agile Harwood ran back at midwicket to take a superbly-judged catch.
The best catch was yet to come. Brett Geeves (31) had just lofted McDonald over long-on for six when he checked his next shot and prodded the ball back down the pitch, where McDonald flung himself to his left to grab the sharp chance at full stretch.
McDonald clearly adjusted better after the flight south than his All-Stars team-mates Michael Dighton and Marsh. Marsh poked Wright to point for a laborious 7 off 41 balls and Dighton, who had mesmerised the Gabba crowd with 34 from 13 deliveries, managed only 20 before edging behind off McKay.
Dighton's innings was one of many stark contrasts between Friday night's extravaganza and the dour first-class day that followed. In Brisbane, the All-Stars managed 203 from 20 overs; at the MCG, a Tasmania outfit featuring some of the same batsmen struggled to 189 from 80 overs. A thrill a minute it was not, but it was a good, hard-fought day of first-class cricket.
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo