South Australia, Victoria duel in engrossing start
South Australia 8 for 325 (Ross 72, Weatherald 66, Carey 50, Holland 3-86) v Victoria
A banner under the scoreboard at Glenelg Oval proclaimed day one of the Sheffield Shield final to be "Chadd Sayers' Bucks Show". If the groom-to-be Sayers was not in the centre of the action all day, he did find himself handcuffed to the crease by Victoria at stumps, as South Australia fought for a defensible total to underpin their bid for a first Shield in 20 years.
True to the hope both sides had for playing an entertaining showpiece match to end the competition, SA did anything but drop anchor upon gaining the chance to bat first. Their approach was daring as ever, racing along at better than four an over for long periods, and affording chances to Victoria's bowlers. It made for a fine day's watching, well deserved by a bountiful Adelaide crowd of 4,204.
The youthful trio of Jake Weatherald, Alex Carey and Alex Ross all played attractive innings to offset the squandered starts made by Travis Head and Jake Lehmann, the state's two most prolific batsmen this season. A lack of hundreds will grate with the coach Jamie Siddons, but Sayers was able to ensure SA would have some more batting to do on Easter Sunday.
On a generally friendly surface for batsmen, Victoria's bowlers toiled sensibly, led by the allrounder Dan Christian and the left-arm spinner Jon Holland. Having been a fringe player for much of the season, Holland's dip and spin were striking, leaving Fawad Ahmed to be used minimally despite evidence of turn. Victoria will be eager to roll up the SA tail on day two before setting in at the crease, with the goal of letting Holland and Fawad dictate terms whenever the hosts bat again.
As flagged by the SA high performance chief Tim Nielsen, the pitch had been shaved of much of the grass seen during the previous match against Tasmania, and the Bushrangers went in with the dual spin of Holland and Fawad. In contrast, SA picked four seamers, but that did not stop Head from choosing to bat when he won an important toss.
Little lateral movement was evident in the early overs, Chris Tremain and Scott Boland quickly settling on tight lines and hoping either for extra bounce or an lbw verdict. A couple of strangled appeals were all they could manage with the new ball, as Weatherald moved swiftly into stride while Cosgrove dug in.
Playing only his fourth first-class match, the left-handed Weatherald unfurled a succession of sweet drives through through the point and cover regions, much to the delight of a partisan contingent that swelled rapidly into what must have been the largest Shield attendance of the summer. Weatherald's score mounted as lunch neared, and he seemed almost to be carried away with his own momentum when he followed a ball from Christian and edged behind. Even so, SA were content at lunch.
Cosgrove's has been a season of starts, and he began as though determined to be there at stumps. But he seemed to be discomforted by a leg-muscle twinge soon after the interval, and on 42 was pinned, flat-footed in front of his stumps by Tremain. Head announced his arrival by swatting Tremain brazenly into the crowd on the grandstand side of the ground, while Sam Raphael assumed the Cosgrove role.
Christian and Holland, however, then turned the afternoon Victoria's way. Working the ball across Head, Christian coached a dabble that was well held low down by Cameron White at second slip. Holland had tied down Raphael, and was rewarded when the No. 3 played over the top of a well-flighted ball on leg stump to be bowled. Holland found a better delivery for Lehmann, zipping one between bat and pad out of the vestigial day one rough to leave SA precariously placed.
Ross and Carey were thus brought together under considerable pressure, but were clearly resolved not to show it. Carey moved off nought by smiting Holland over midwicket for six, and the partnership was soon rattling along at a similar rate to Weatherald's earlier. The pair raised a hundred stand in 123 balls, with Ross showing a wider stroke range than the myriad sweeps he has been known for.
Just as SA began thinking about battling the second new ball, Holland struck again, tempting Carey to swing for the midwicket fence and instead managing to pick out Peter Handscomb in the deep. That opened up the bowlers, and a sparingly-used Fawad spun a legbreak across a crease-bound Joe Mennie for Matthew Wade to take a decent catch up to the stumps.
Left with 9, 10 and 11 for company, Ross pared back some of his previous aggression, and let Sayers do much of the scoring in the day's final hour. Boland took the second new ball with four of the day's 90 overs remaining and found a way past Ross before stumps were drawn, leaving Sayers and Daniel Worrall to make the best of it in the morning.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig