Victoria 4 for 351 (Harris 115, Handscomb 78, Wade 56*, White 50*) v Tasmania
Glenn Maxwell was a surprise omission from Victoria's first match of the Sheffield Shield season, but the Bushrangers enjoyed a strong day on the field with new opener Marcus Harris scoring a century. The Victorians went to stumps on 4 for 351 on what was a tough day for the Tasmania attack, although Test hopeful Jackson Bird bowled tidily for 1 for 53 from 22 overs.
But as much as the on-field action, attention was focused on Victoria's pre-match decision to make Maxwell the 12th man. During the off-season, Maxwell had explored a switch to New South Wales, a move that was blocked by Victoria, who chose to enforce the terms of his Cricket Australia contract. However, they could find no room in the starting XI for him.
"It's just a matter of balance," the new Victoria coach Andrew McDonald said on Tuesday. "There will be some unlucky players. We've got nearly the full list available and we've selected the team we think can beat Tasmania."
It has been an up-and-down year for Maxwell, who in January was named Australia's ODI Cricketer of the Year at the Allan Border Medal ceremony, was dropped from the ODI squad for the series in Sri Lanka, then blasted an unbeaten 145 in the first T20 against Sri Lanka, and now has been cut from Victoria's Sheffield Shield side. Maxwell averages 41.03 with the bat in first-class cricket.
But the Victorians did not seem to suffer in his absence, as openers Harris and Travis Dean put on 76 to set the stage for a day full of runs. Dean was bowled by Cameron Boyce for 26 but Harris, playing his first Sheffield Shield match for Victoria after moving from Western Australia, turned his start into the fifth first-class century of his career.
Harris ended up with 115, including 14 fours and two sixes, before he fell to the bowling of Beau Webster. But there were plenty more runs to come for Victoria as Peter Handscomb posted 78, Matthew Wade finished unbeaten on 56 and Cameron White went to stumps on 50. Aaron Finch was the one middle-order man who fell cheaply, caught behind off Bird for 17.
Bird is effectively the incumbent third fast bowler in Australia's Test line-up having played on the tour of New Zealand in February - in Sri Lanka the Australians played an extra spinner and only two frontline fast men. The MCG Shield clash had the potential to become a battle between Bird and Peter Siddle for a place in the Perth Test XI.
Bird was typically hard to get away and sent down seven maidens in his 22 overs, while Siddle will have to wait until later in the match for his opportunity. Siddle is playing first-class cricket for the first time since the Test tour of New Zealand, after which he was diagnosed with stress fractures of the back.