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October 31, 2013
Victoria 312 (White 83, Handscomb 69, Behrendorff 4-62) and 0 for 33 lead Western Australia 270 (Rogers 95, Fawad 6-68) by 75 runs
Fawad Ahmed's legspin created the kind of mayhem Australia's selectors hope he can generate in the Ashes this summer to earn Victoria first-innings points and a useful lead over Western Australia after two days of the Sheffield Shield match at the MCG. Rob Quiney and the Test opener Chris Rogers were untroubled in the 13 overs they faced before stumps, having not expected to be batting again so soon.
While Nathan Lyon remains the incumbent spinner, a desire to pit England's batsmen against wrist spin will have been enhanced significantly by Fawad's collection of his best first-class figures in his maiden long-form innings of the season. The national selector John Inverarity had predicted the Shield matches that preceded the naming of the first Test squad would be "very important to his career", and he has made the ideal start.
From 3 for 218 the Warriors lost a feverish 7 for 52, the last five wickets falling to Fawad in a spell of aggression, guile and noticeable side spin. His success in wrapping up the WA innings overshadowed some earlier harsh treatment meted out by Shaun Marsh, who squandered a fluent start in his own efforts to press for a place in the Ashes top six.
"If I'm in a good rhythm, feeling good inside like today … it doesn't matter who you're playing against when the ball's coming nicely out of the hand," Fawad said afterwards. "At the end the ball was dipping and it was easier to bowl. It all depends on rhythm … when it's coming out nicely out of the hand, it's all good.
"The positive thing about leg-spinners is when they're getting into a rhythm they can take quick wickets. To be a wicket-taker it doesn't matter if the economy rate is high; it's all about the wicket-taking. Five wickets came in six, seven overs so that was pretty good.
"If I'm going well it'd be great to be representing Australia, not just by [pressure] from media and people saying I'm a good bowler. It's better to prove yourself in the middle of the ground, then you can get a chance and if you're performing well I can think of nothing better than doing that for your country."
WA's early progress had been quite serene, led by a neat 95 from John Rogers. Fawad's entry to the attack drew an lbw decision against Marcus North but also a flurry of aggressive strokes from Marsh, and at one point his figures were 1 for 51 at around five runs per over. But Marsh's exit to Scott Boland encouraged the Victoria captain Matthew Wade to recall Fawad to the bowling crease, and the rewards would be rich.
The wicketkeeper Sam Whiteman will curse an injudicious slog that offered Fawad his second wicket, but the rest were defeated by spin, bounce and variations. Ashton Agar and Nathan Rimmington were both caught in close from deliveries that turned and bounced, while Hilton Cartwright was opened up gloriously by a googly between bat and pad.
The last man Michael Hogan appeared to have fallen caught behind to Fawad soon after, but the umpire Jeff Joshua reversed his decision as the teams were walking from the MCG. Hogan and Jason Behrendorff crept the Warriors closer to Victoria's 312, before Fawad induced another excited waft by Hogan that was held by John Hastings running from cover.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
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