Cowan, Copeland star on attritional day
Tasmania 3 for 160 (Cowan 80*, Copeland 2-52) trail New South Wales 440 (Hughes 138, Doherty 3-67) by 280 runs
Sheffield Shield finals are rarely free-flowing, cut and thrust affairs. More often than not they are attritional, absorbing, last-man-standing encounters.
And so it proved on day two of Australian cricket's domestic showpiece in Hobart. While the highlight of day one was the batting of two Test stars, Phil Hughes and Simon Katich, day two featured a battle of wills between two hard-nosed Shield journeymen.
Ben Rohrer has played just 20 Shield matches in four years since scoring 163 on debut at Bellerive. The 29-year-old was preferred for this final over 19-year-old Nic Maddinson, and his experience proved invaluable for NSW this morning.
With the second new ball still nipping around, Rohrer made and unbeaten 64 with a positive display of strokeplay to help NSW reach their total of 440 by lunch time. Rohrer, who was well supported by cameos from nightwatchman Scott Coyte (25) and Trent Copeland (26), cracked seven fours and two sixes in his 91-ball stay. The Blues plundered 124 runs in 29.5 overs and the game charged forward at a rate of knots.
Ben Hilfenhaus put a poor first day behind him when he took a wicket with his first ball this morning. It was little surprise it was his first ball to a right-hander in this innings. He bowled an impressive spell to remove the only two right-handed NSW batsmen - Peter Nevill and Steve O'Keefe - in the top nine, as he found prodigious swing on a cool and overcast morning. James Faulkner and Xavier Doherty both added to their tallies to finish with three wickets apiece.
Whilst the Blues opening batsmen clattered 85 inside 19 overs yesterday, Tasmania's top four took 35 overs to reach the same mark. The middle session was a grind, highlighted by a battle of wills between former NSW batsmen Ed Cowan and former Bathurst wicketkeeper turned wicket-taker in Copeland.
Cowan watches each ball like a hawk and plays to his strengths without trying to over-extend himself. Copeland is the bowling equivalent. He doesn't try to bowl any quicker than 125kph. And instead uses guile and patience to strangle his victims, delivering over after over with metronomic precision.
It was a fascinating duel over four absorbing hours. Cowan finished unbeaten on 80 from 177 balls while Copeland delivered 21 overs and claimed two wickets and perhaps deserved more.
There were other players who impressed aside from the duo. Teenager Pat Cummins, who became the youngest player ever to play in a Shield final, was exceptional in bowling 20 overs over genuine pace. His first ball of the day was 134kph, his last 142kph. In between he was far too fast for Nick Kruger trapping him in front for one, and troubled every Tasmanian he bowled to. No batsman was excluded from the barrage of high-velocity, short balls. George Bailey was troubled more than any but it was Copeland who was rewarded for Cummins' work.
Alex Doolan also played a nice hand as his 46 oozed class and reminded onlookers of the uncomplicated style of Martin Love. But the 25-year-old fell to Copeland, edging behind. Mark Cosgrove's entrance unshackled Cowan and the pair adding 53 in from 13 overs. They will need a lot more tomorrow to eat into the 280-run deficit.
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based out of Perth