Victoria have the edge after Holland takes three
South Australia 340 and 4 for 137 (Weatherald 72*, Holland 3-32) lead Victoria 399 (Handscomb 112, Dean 111, White 78, Worrall 6-96) by 78 runs
In a season both tightly fought and topsy turvy, taking opportunities has been vital. South Australia floated near the back of the pack before making a late burst to host the Sheffield Shield final. Cameron White regained his place in the Victorian side just in time to play the innings that scraped them in to face South Australia.
No team or individual, though, timed their run quite like Jon Holland. In the course of little more than a week, he has leapt from sitting outside the Bushrangers' best XI to contending for a berth on Australia's July Test tour of Sri Lanka. Holland tipped the competition decider strongly towards Victoria in an outstanding spell on the third evening, leaving the Redbacks scrambling to build a lead at Glenelg Oval.
On an eventful day, Peter Handscomb brought up a notable century, Cameron White shepherded the tail, Daniel Worrall compiled figures of 6 for 96, and 10 wickets fell. Victorian chagrin at being penalised for a ball tampering offence was then channeled into a passage of high-energy and high-pressure cricket to corral South Australia. Holland accounted for Mark Cosgrove, Travis Head and Jake Lehmann, while captain Matthew Wade ran out Sam Raphael.
There was no more fitting measure of how the match has progressed than the fact that Victoria's two young batting talents, Travis Dean and Handscomb, both fought their way to hundreds against South Australia's all-seam attack. Their opposite numbers in Head and Lehmann failed in both innings, the free-spirited exuberance of their best batting seemingly suffocated by the occasion, to the obvious disappointment of 2,864 expectant spectators.
The young opener, Jake Weatherald, bunkered down in the company of Alex Ross after the loss of four wickets in the space of 10 overs, but they have an enormous amount of work to do to set a defendable target. The hosts have also been handicapped by a leg complaint afflicting their spearhead Chadd Sayers, leaving an enormous load for Worrall and Joe Mennie to carry.
The day began with a four-over-old ball in the hands of South Australia's seamers, and Mennie soon pinned nightwatchman Scott Boland lbw. Handscomb was fortunate when he twice edged Worrall between slips and gully to the third man boundary, but there was nothing streaky about the cover drive that took him to three figures. The Redbacks were left to ponder how a fit Sayers might have fared against Handscomb and White, who mixed stern defence with plenty of power.
It took the Kensington product Eliot Opie to find a way past Handscomb, who played fractionally inside the line of a well-pitched ball that sent the off stump cartwheeling. This opened up an end for Worrall, who had swung and seamed the ball consistently and beaten the bat countless times. He prompted a drag-on from Dan Christian, had Chris Tremain lbw next ball, and beat Holland outside off stump with a an excellent attempt at the hat-trick.
At that point the Bushrangers led by only five runs, but Holland hung around to add a priceless 54 with White that allowed the visitors to pressure South Australia when they batted a second time. Autumn sun broke through the clouds for just about the first time in the match and helped Weatherald and Cosgrove to start in relative comfort. It was during this phase that the ball tampering penalty was levied.
However, Holland bowled with considerable guile and sharp spin immediately after tea, varying his pace and flight intelligently and winning a bat-pad catch verdict from the umpire Paul Wilson to defeat Cosgrove. Raphael's brief stay was ended when Wade ran him out, and Head looked markedly uncomfortable against deliveries biting out of the footmarks.
Head had made an uncharacteristic single from 14 balls when he touched a Holland delivery on its way through to Wade, and next ball Lehmann still seemed haunted by the sharp turner that had defeated him on the first day when a tentative prod was squeezed to short leg. Holland was admired by the former selection chairman John Inverarity, and while injuries and team balance have kept him on the fringes of the Victorian side, he has performed repeatedly when asked.
Before the Alice Springs match against New South Wales in which he claimed six wickets, Holland's previous state call-up had been in a Top End fixture the year before, when he pouched eight against Tasmania to claim the Man-of-the-Match award, before promptly being dropped for the final. This time around Holland has grabbed his chance, and Australia's looming subcontinental assignments over the next 12 months mean there may just be more than a Shield title at the end of it.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig