Queensland 4 for 298 (Henry 141, Labuschagne 67) v Victoria
If Australia's selectors wanted someone to bash down the door on the first day of the Sheffield Shield season, they would have been disappointed. There was not even a polite ringing of the door-bell from any of the four men hoping to win top-order places in the squad for the first Test at the Gabba, to be named on Friday: Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja, Cameron Bancroft and Shaun Marsh all failed to jump to the head of the queue.
At the MCG, Burns and Khawaja were presented with the perfect opportunity to bat first in sunny conditions, on a pitch that offered little for Victoria's bowlers with the pink ball in this day-night round. However, it was the least known member of Queensland's top three who thrived; the former New South Wales opener Scott Henry scored a century in his first match for his new state.
Khawaja won the toss and not surprisingly chose to bat, and while the ball swung early for James Pattinson and Peter Siddle, once the movement disappeared there was little assistance for the bowlers. However, it was the first over of legspin that did for Burns, who on 25 failed to pick Fawad Ahmed's slider and was bowled through the gap between bat and pad.
That brought Khawaja to the crease and he survived a similar length of time before he was caught behind off the bowling of John Hastings for 21. At least the disappointment for Burns and Khawaja might have been tempered by the knowledge that in Hobart, Bancroft managed only 10 and Shaun Marsh departed for 15. There it was the veteran Michael Klinger who reached triple-figures; at the MCG it was Henry.
Henry and Marnus Labuschagne frustrated the Victorians through a long afternoon in which the aging pink ball did little, and Henry brought up his second first-class century from his 181st delivery, while Labuschagne registered his second first-class fifty from 84 balls. The Victorians ask the umpires if the ball could be changed due to discolouration in the 74th over, but the umpires were unmoved and it took the second new ball to break the stand.
Hastings struck in the first over with the new ball, when Labuschagne drove and was caught by Peter Handscomb at second slip for 67. He had only just survived a stumping chance off Fawad when he advanced and Matthew Wade failed to grasp the old ball, but the miss cost Victoria little, and the new ball soon provided more relief when Henry was taken at gully off Pattinson for 141.
There were precious few other chances throughout the day for Victoria. Siddle and Hastings were accurate and hard to get away, but the spin of Fawad and Glenn Maxwell proved costly - collectively they took 1 for 116 from a combined 27 overs. By stumps, Queensland were 4 for 298 with Nathan Reardon on 19 and Jack Wildermuth on 8.
Hastings said the pink ball had performed better than it had in the past, but it still failed to offer anything after the initial new-ball stages. Softness and discolouration were also issues the Victorians struggled to deal with.
"It's getting better," Hastings said. "It's certainly better than the first few pink ball games that we played. But I still think there's a fair bit of work to do. My main issue is the hardness of the ball. It just doesn't stack up to the red ball. I think maybe if we change the ball at around 50, 55 overs and get a new ball or a semi-new one, it might be a better contest towards the end.
"The ball doesn't move off the straight [after the early stages]. It's tough work. All you've got to do is set straight fields and it's quite a boring brand of cricket when you have that pink ball … even now we've bowled 15 or 16 overs with it [the second new ball] and it's stopped swinging. It's going to be hard work in the morning again."
"It did go [reverse] a little bit there at times. It wasn't consistent, but it did reverse. The main thing is when you get a red ball to reverse it's actually quite hard, but with the pink ball if you get it to reverse we didn't really have that zip off the wicket you do with a red ball."