Butterworth takes Tigers past 400
Queensland 1 for 12 trail Tasmania 419 (Silk 108, Butterworth 86, Cosgrove 58, Hopes 4-71) by 407 runs
Over a seven-year career for Tasmania, in which he has consistently shown himself to be an apt performer on the big occasions, Luke Butterworth's most notable reward has been a solitary Australia A tour to Zimbabwe in 2011. As he compiled 86 on day two of the Sheffield Shield final against Queensland, his third major score in four competition deciders, it was difficult not to wonder whether Butterworth deserved better.
Until Butterworth walked to the wicket at the fall of the seventh wicket for a mere 269, Tasmania's first innings was marked more by the inert than the expansive. His fluent counterattack, in the company of James Faulkner, gave the Tigers a healthy total, and enough time before the close for Ben Hilfenhaus to surge through Greg Moller's crooked defence with the first ball of the Bulls' innings.
Jordan Silk had reached a stolid 108 in the morning, and George Bailey managed 42, but it was not until Butterworth joined Faulkner that the Tigers were able to wriggle free of a Queensland attack that maintained a disciplined line throughout. Butterworth has enjoyed the most fruitful bowling season of his career, and his languid batting has always seemed to find traction at key moments for the Tigers. Anything short of a berth on the Australia A tour to England that precedes the Ashes this year would be an injustice.
Ponting and Silk resumed with intent to press on from the funereal progress that had typified the first day. However Ponting's contribution was to extend no further than a couple more crisp strokes, as James Hopes' stumps-seeking swinger had the 38-year-old Tasmanian overbalancing and lbw.
Silk punched and prodded to his century, a 341-ball triumph of application over adventure that maintained a decidedly promising start to his first-class career. There was to be some irony to Silk's exit eight runs later, for he perished caught in the deep to a top-edged pull shot. Both the aggression and the error on his most reliable source of runs, were uncharacteristic of his innings.
Bailey was playing neatly in search of only his second half-century in a personally dire Shield season, but he was to lose another two partners soon after lunch. Jon Wells could do little with an outswinger from the persevering Harris, touching it through for Chris Hartley to claim a low catch. In the bowler's next over Tim Paine did less well, as a ball angled back and skidded through, with umpire Simon Fry judging it would have hit leg stump.
These wobbles became more pronounced when Bailey himself departed, pinned in front by Cameron Gannon's inswing for another lbw. Faulkner and Butterworth were thus charged with sustaining an innings that was in serious danger of petering out in mediocre fashion.
So well did they take to this task that the stand reaped 125 in good time, tiring Queensland's bowlers, and lifting Tasmania's total into territory more commensurate with the time that its accumulation had occupied. Usually a more extroverted batsman, Faulkner played within himself, leaving Butterworth the stage on which to demonstrate his now commonplace ease in a final.
Demonstrating a vast array of shots and an elegant approach, Butterworth lit up the afternoon. There were drives, cuts, pull shots and glances, while he had no qualms about advancing to strike Nathan Hauritz boldly down the ground. A century beckoned, but Faulkner was undone by a Hopes delivery that stayed low. Butterworth then touched a ball angled across him to caught behind by Hartley.
Hopes claimed a fourth for the innings when Hilfenhaus was ruled lbw, but the wickets succeeded mainly in leaving the Bulls an awkward session up to stumps that was to prove almost as damaging as Butterworth's batting had been.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here