Victorious White questions Ryobi format
Victoria 8 for 174 (White 82*, Wade 50) beat New South Wales 9 for 171 (Rohrer 63, Smith 47, Boland 3-42) by two wickets
A reinvigorated Cameron White shepherded Victoria to a third win in as many matches, this time over New South Wales, and then joined the Tasmania captain George Bailey in questioning this year's limited-overs tournament format and the poor Bankstown pitches on which it has so far been contested.
Relieved of the state captaincy at the start of the season to allow the wicketkeeper Matthew Wade to expand his leadership skills, White has played with considerable authority and freedom to take the Bushrangers past a pair of pesky targets against South Australia and now the Blues.
But personal success did not dissuade White from expressing doubts about the suitability of a competition squeezed into little more than three weeks in October, before six Sheffield Shield matches are lined up in as many weeks in November and December. Bailey offered similar reservations before departing for India with the national team.
"I'm enjoying it from the point of view that Victoria are three wins from as many games," White said. "But I'm not sure about the tournament to be totally honest, six games isn't a lot, but I understand the scheduling is a fine balance these days. I'm not sure about the whole Sydney thing and the whole set-up itself, but, off the top of my head, I haven't got any better ideas at the moment. It's interesting to see how this format's going to work once it's done and dusted in a couple of weeks' time.
"You create extra space in the draw by playing this at the start of the season but then you still play six four-day games before December 12. That to me is a lot of cricket in a short space of time if you're a fast bowler. That'll be interesting to see where teams are at with their depth when you have a week off before BBL starts."
Another slow and untrustworthy surface at Bankstown made life difficult for both sides at times, and though he prospered, White said the pitch recalled nothing quite so much as some of the more curmudgeonly club wickets he had played on in Melbourne. "That's probably the best way to describe the pitch, it's just low and slow and if you bowl stump-to-stump it's quite difficult to score," he said. "You can see by the scores that it was pretty tough work. Not sure it was much of a spectacle on the sidelines either, it was a hard slog."
The hard slog had begun early, NSW finding little joy in it despite Steve Smith's success at the toss. A strip that had been used already for Friday's match between the Bushrangers and South Australia had worn in the meantime. David Warner did not find it to his liking and soon dragged a tentative cut shot attempt onto his stumps from Scott Boland, having fussed over avoiding a grade match in order to gain extra net practice for the game.
His struggles were to be replicated by others. The former Victoria representative Ryan Carters fell in similar fashion to John Hastings, before the left-hander Scott Henry was beaten by a Boland delivery that straightened from around the wicket. As against Tasmania, it was left to Smith to demonstrate how to adjust to the prevailing conditions, waiting on the ball instead of chasing it too hastily.
His innings was another reminder of a talent beginning to bloom, but it would be ended short of fifty by Dan Christian, who found a sharp off-cutter to strike Smith in front of the stumps - whether the ball would have continued its arc down the leg side was a matter for debate. Peter Nevill was the victim of a too-sharp single, run out by David Hussey, and Sean Abbott was pinned in front of his stumps by Jon Holland.
At 6 for 85 a defendable total looked unlikely, but Ben Rohrer has proven himself to be a most resourceful player, and he fashioned a series of lower-order partnerships to lift the Blues' tally into the realm of the respectable. The No. 10 Nathan Lyon had batted in grade cricket on Saturday, and ended the innings on a defiant note by crunching the previously nagging Boland for a six and a four in the final over.
Victoria's chase was punctuated by regular wickets, as Doug Bollinger, Josh Hazlewood and Gurinder Sandhu all bowled diligently. But Wade and then White played with commendable fluency in the circumstances, ensuring that, even as wickets were lost, the visitors had plenty of time in which to cobble together the remaining runs. The leadership handover appears to have agreed with both men.
"Matt's doing a great job and I'm just enjoying the role and batting with a fair bit of freedom," White said. "As you can see the team's in a fairly good spot as well - everyone's enjoying their cricket including myself. When you're captain you probably do think about more things than just yourself, you can really concentrate on your own game when you're not captain, so I'm sure in many ways it's probably a good thing."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here