Sheffield Shield 2018-19 November 27, 2018

Pacers put Queensland on top despite Finch, Handscomb fifties

Usman Khawaja swept his way to an unbeaten 99 © Chris Hyde/Getty Images

Victoria 167 (Handscomb 81, Finch 50, Steketee 4-52) lead Queensland 2 for 120 (Burns 71*, Khawaja 41, Tremain 2-20) by 47 runs

Queensland's pacemen razed Sheffield Shield leaders Victoria on day one at the Gabba to put the Bulls in command at stumps and in position to establish a big first innings lead.

Victoria's Test squad members Peter Handscomb and Aaron Finch got valuable time in the middle ahead of next week's first Test against India making 81 and 50 respectively but the rest of the side combined for just 36 runs as Mark Steketee, Michael Neser and Luke Feldman made the most of a bowler-friendly surface.

Bulls skipper Usman Khawaja had no hesitation in sending the visitors into bat after winning the toss. The pitch was hardly distinguishable from the outfield, as such was the coverage of lush green grass.

All the debate about Finch opening the batting washed away when he walked out in the first over at No.3 after Travis Dean was bowled. Likely Test opening partner Marcus Harris nicked an excellent delivery from Neser to leave Victoria in trouble at 2 for 6.

But Finch and Handscomb counter-attacked with a brisk 116-run stand. Their positive mindset forced some bad balls from the Bulls. Finch played some excellent strokes but was overshadowed by Handscomb who looked in superb touch.

Handscomb reached fifty before lunch. Finch had some luck just after the break to reach his half-century before falling to an outstanding catch in the gully from Khawaja. He tried to cut a ball from Neser that nipped in and bounced more than expected and Khawaja pouched the chance diving to his left. Neser produced a cracking late outswinger to dismiss Glenn Maxwell two balls later. Handscomb looked set for a century but cut a ball straight to point.

The Victorian tail contributed just 19 more to the total. Marnus Labuschagne produced a high-class direct hit run out to remove James Pattinson while Steketee claimed three of the last four scalps to finish with four for the innings.

Matthew Renshaw was out for just two, slicing an extravagant drive to Maxwell in the gully off Chris Tremain in the second over. But Joe Burns and Khawaja took control with a 108-run stand late in the day.

Burns was outstanding making 71 not out from 82 balls while Khawaja proved his fitness for the Test series cruising to 41. He was dismissed in the shadows of stumps, caught down the leg side off Tremain.

Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Melbourne

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