South Australia 5 for 527 (Cooper 188*, Carey 117, Tremain 2-42) trail Victoria 6 for 616 dec (Maddinson 224, Pucovski 123, Harris 116) by 89 runs
South Australia duo Tom Cooper and Alex Carey made barnstorming centuries against some very generous Victorian bowling as the game descended into a farcical stalemate on a concrete-like pitch at the Junction Oval.
The match almost seemed like it had turned into a village game following Carey's dismissal early in the last session when it became clear South Australia would not declare to try and set up a result. Victoria skipper Peter Handscomb brought both himself and Marcus Harris into the attack to bowl a mix of dubious offspin and medium pace unchanged for most of last session until James Pattinson came on to bowl offspin. Handscomb exchanged words regularly with Cooper as the game ground to a halt late in the day. The Redbacks reverted to conventional batting against the declaration-style bowling as both sides became frustrated at the inability to create a result on a surface that has yielded 1143 runs for just 11 wickets.
"We were trying to get a game going," Handscomb said after the day's play. "We thought 350 off 80 overs was going to be a fair target to chase and they weren't having it. That was it we couldn't come to an agreement on a pretty flat wicket."
"I'm just annoyed the game is dead. I've got to put my bowlers back out there for time on feet for a pointless game. We as we could have been competing for something tomorrow."
It appears the two teams were about 50 runs apart on what was a reasonable target. Cooper was unsure what took place behind the scenes and spent most of the last session as a conduit between Handscomb and the Redbacks hierarchy.
"I guess I was caught in the middle of it as the messenger," Cooper said. "They obviously couldn't come to a compromise. Unfortunately that's how it panned out. Going into the day we were under a lot of pressure to keep ourselves in it and not fold under the pressure of a massive first innings total.'
The Redbacks were under pressure just after lunch on day three having crawled to 4 for 185 in the 76th over after Travis Head fell to Glenn Maxwell for 51 off 184 balls, his slowest half-century in first-class cricket.
Carey immediately showed his intent trying to reverse-sweep Maxwell. Victoria took the second new ball but both Carey and Cooper started finding the boundary with increasing regularity. Handscomb turned back to spin from both ends but kept the field up.
Carey and Cooper made 172 runs in 28.5 overs before tea. Cooper hit Jon Holland twice into the windows of the second storey of the pavilion. Carey slog-swept and reverse-swept with impunity as there were no men out deep on either side of the field. Holland switched ends to bowl down breeze and Cooper hit him for three more sixes, including one to bring up his 13th first-class century.
Having been 439 runs behind at lunch, South Australia went to tea only 259 runs behind. It had been a deliberate ploy from Victoria to try and accelerate the game to possibly set up a fourth-innings chase on a surface that simply won't break up in the cool conditions. But the partnership moved much quicker than Victoria expected and they reset at tea.
Carey reached his third Shield century just after tea off 99 balls. He has two hundred and two fifties in his last five first-class innings but they have come in a span of 11 months, as he had spent majority of that time playing limited-overs cricket.
He finally fell driving in the air straight to cover off Chris Tremain. The partnership yielded 207 runs in just 35.5 overs. Tom Andrews made his third first-class half-century, and undoubtedly his easiest given he faced Handscomb and Harris throughout. Cooper cruised to 188 not out and Andrews reached his highest Shield score of 75 not out. South Australia finished the day only 89 runs behind.
Victoria also had two sub fielders throughout the day. Nic Maddinson was hit on the middle finger on his left hand while fielding at short leg when Cooper whipped a low full toss straight from Pattinson at him as he ducked for safety. He left the field in the middle session and didn't return. Aaron Finch did not field at all after hurting his back while batting on day two. Victoria medical staff are confident it is nothing more than spasms and he did not field as a precaution.
Earlier in the first session, Henry Hunt fell for 75 on debut. He advanced at Holland but was beaten in flight by a beautiful piece of bowling and was stumped by a mile.
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Melbourne