New South Wales batting in the spotlight after 'very humbling' defeat
They are still well placed to make the Sheffield Shield final but a number of batsmen are under pressure
New South Wales will take a hard look at their batting after a defeat to Tasmania that captain Peter Nevill termed "very humbling" following their collapse for a record low of 32 all out in the first innings.
The scoreline wasn't quite as dramatic on the third day, but they could only manage 194 to lose by 298 runs. While they are still well placed to secure a spot in the final the defeat - their second in four games in the second half of the season - was a blow to hopes of securing the decider at home.
Queensland are top by less than a point but have two games remaining - the first starting on Tuesday against South Australia in Brisbane weather permitting and then against New South Wales in Wollongong in what could decide top spot. Mathematically Western Australia and Victoria remain in contention with two games to play but a lot would need to go right for them.
New South Wales were without Moises Henriques, their leading run-scorer this season, and David Warner against Tasmania after the pair were rested and they will be unavailable for the final part of the competition due to IPL commitments, while they also lost Sean Abbott when he split the webbing in his hand. However, Nevill would not use that as an excuse for a match that saw them register their lowest ever first-class total.
"It's about the people we put out on the park doing the job and we've fallen well short in this match," he said. "A very humbling loss that one, it's quite difficult to find many positives about our batting performance. Thought the bowlers did a great job, losing Sean Abbott early in the game going a bowler down, proud of their efforts but that batting performance in both innings was not good enough
"They'll be some reevaluation, [but] that obviously won't happen right now. No doubt with our next match still 10 days away they'll be reassessment of where things are at and if changes need to be made."
The 32 all out was the second time this season New South Wales have been bundled out cheaply after they made just 64 in their other match against Tasmania, although remarkably came back to win that match when they scored 522 in the second innings.
While Abbott (525 runs at 75.00) and Henriques (633 runs at 70.33) have led the way, with Nevill (320 runs at 35.55) chipping in, much of the New South Wales batting has not delivered. Nick Larkin, Daniel Solway, Daniel Hughes and Kurtis Patterson are all averaging under 30, although Patterson scored a century in the previous match against South Australia.
Nevill was unsure whether Abbott would recover in time for the Shield match against Queensland which starts on April 3. "From what I understand when you split the webbing it can be various degrees of how severe it is. Not ideal being on his bowling hand so my fingers are crossed."
Meanwhile, Tasmania captain Matthew Wade was glancing towards next season and the hope that they will have a full quota of home games having seen Jackson Bird and Peter Siddle work together with such devastating effect.
This summer Covid-19 forced the Shield into a hub in October and then shortened it by two rounds, meaning Tasmania have only played two games in Hobart. Siddle, who joined from Victoria in the off-season, missed the other match against Queensland (who chased 310 in the second innings) but the prospect of him, Bird Riley Meredith, Nathan Ellis and the much improving all-round skills of Beau Webster working together encouraged Wade.
"For Sids and Jackson to do what they did was extraordinary," he said. "Peter beat the bat many times as well in his first four overs. It's exciting to see those two go about their work for the future, hopefully Covid doesn't get us again and we don't have to do the whole bubble thing and we can play five home games here. Those guys will do some damage."
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo