Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo
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South Australia head coachJason Gillespie is confident his bowlers can put last season's toil behind them as they bid to lift themselves off the foot of the Sheffield Shield for the first time in five seasons.
The 2020-21 campaign was back-breaking for the Redbacks' attack with none of the regular bowlers who played more than a single match taking their wickets at less than 45. The leading wicket-taker was Chadd Sayers with 13 at 46.76 in what became his final season while among the others Wes Agar, who earned an Australia limited-overs call-up for the tours of West Indies and Bangladesh, claimed four wickets at 144.25.
They did not bowl a side out twice all season - although came within one wicket of doing so in Perth - and only once took all 10 wickets in an innings, that coming in the final game against Victoria.
In an attempt to find a solution, South Australia have recruited to the bowling unit in the off-season with the lively fast bowlerBrendan Doggett joining from Queensland alongside allrounder Nathan McAndrew from New South Wales. Doggett, however, won't be available for the opening match against Western Australia as he builds up his workload.
"Our bowling was below par, we acknowledge that and accept that, we need to be better with the ball in both forms of the game," Gillespie told ESPNcricinfo. "We will be better than what we were. Brendan Doggett has come on board and Nathan McAndrew to complement the guys we have.
"David Grant showed real progress in four-day cricket last year, Wes didn't have the four-day form he would have like, Dan Worrall is a quality swing bowler, Nick Winter is another swing bowler, so we've got a number of options. We believe we've developed a bit of depth through progression and recruitment."
Spin-bowling returns were also meagre after the early false dawn of legspinner Lloyd Pope taking a five-wicket haul on the opening day of the season. He would take only another three wickets and averaged 86.25 overall. In the second half of the campaign, left-arm wrist spinner Joe Medew-Ewen and allrounder Sam Kerber were given a chance with the latter in the squad for Friday's opening round against Western Australia alongside Pope.
Gillespie also hoped that another winter recruit, Nathan McSweeney, could play a role with his offspin having impressed during pre-season.
Having twice managed to save games after poor first-innings during the Adelaide-based hub that started last season (against Tasmania and Victoria) and almost doing it a third time against Queensland, there was an uplift in run-scoring after the BBL which heartened Gillespie.
"From a batting perspective we did show some real progression I thought particularly pre and post Big Bash in the Shield, we challenged the batters to put more runs on the board particularly in the first innings," he said.
Gillespie has also had the benefit of a full pre-season in a largely lockdown-free Adelaide to work closely with the squad compared to last season when he was still completing quarantine during the first round of matches. A lot of the focus of the winter has been on "empowering players" to lead discussions around their personal development and wider game tactics, but he insisted there had been no timeline put on turning the fortunes of the state around.
"We've put a line through last season, it's done. We've taken the lessons and put things in place that we feel will make us progress this year. I'm not looking over my shoulder and I don't want players and support staff looking over their shoulder either. We are progressing nicely, our goal was to create the best possible environment for our players to thrive and we feel we are well on the way there."