Doolan leaps into Ashes contention, Tigers stumble to win
Tasmania 239 (Doolan 56, Bollinger 6-62) and 8 for 295 (Doolan 132, Dunk 67, Wells 57, O'Keefe 3-53, Lyon 3-88) beat New South Wales 288 (Clarke 88, Rainbird 6-68) and 245 (Henry 65, Rose 4-64) by 2 wickets
Alex Doolan added his name to the Australian selectors' Ashes batting shortlist with an outstanding century as Tasmania stumbled to a nervy two-wicket victory over New South Wales in the Sheffield Shield opener at Blacktown Oval.
The Tigers were cantering along in pursuit of 295 to win before Doolan's exit for 132 started a slide of 6 for 23 to give the Blues faint hope of a larcenous win. But the left-arm spinner Clive Rose, who had taken four wickets to keep the Tasmania target within reasonable parameters on day three, held his nerve by clouting the Test spin bowler, Nathan Lyon, for six and then flicking the winning runs to take the defending champions to outright points.
They owed much to Doolan and an innings that demonstrated the class and character that has had him around the fringes of Australia's Test line-up for some time. Watched not only by the selectors but also the Test captain Michael Clarke, from his post in the slips, this day may later be seen as a pivotal point in Doolan's career.
"He played very well, that was a fantastic innings no doubt about it, and played a huge part in getting Tasmania home so deserves a lot of credit," Clarke said. "I thought he batted with great patience but played his natural game. He played a really good innings but he helped his team win batting on a fourth day wicket. To play with so much freedom and the patience he showed has certainly done him a lot of favours I would imagine."
Doolan is considered to be behind his state captain George Bailey in the queue for an Ashes batting berth. However, more runs against the Englishmen for Australia A in Hobart next week will greatly strengthen the case of a batsman who also made an unbeaten 161 for the A team against the South Africans in Sydney this time last year, before a choppy domestic schedule scotched his momentum. Batting alongside Ricky Ponting last summer has played a large part in Doolan's evolution.
"I think everyone lives in hope at the moment of being in that Test team," Doolan said. "The advantage Australia has got at the moment is that so many guys are making a lot of runs, not only at home but away in India. George Bailey's form has been sensational. There is a plethora of people to pick from. I hope my name is up there with them.
"I think I came on in leaps and bounds last year thanks mainly to Ricky Ponting. Under his tutelage I learnt more in 12 months than I had in the first five years of my career. I've got a lot to thank him for."
After the early loss of the former Test opener Ed Cowan on the penultimate evening, Doolan formed productive partnerships with Ben Dunk and Jon Wells to drive Tasmania towards their target. He did not offer a chance, while driving straight and through cover with plenty of flourish.
Josh Hazlewood was taken for three consecutive boundaries in one over before lunch and, after the interval, Doolan went to his century with a commanding on-driven four. He looked set to guide the Tigers all the way to their target, but perished the ball after gliding Steve O'Keefe over cover for six, falling lbw on the pull shot to a ball that skidded through.
Doolan's exit gave NSW a glimmer, and they went close to charging through as O'Keefe and Lyon bowled quality spells on a wearing pitch. Ultimately it was left to Rose to ensure the Tigers would not cough up a match that had been theirs for most of the afternoon, and Doolan was able to celebrate victory alongside an innings that has given him a genuine chance of figuring in Australia's Ashes calculations.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here