A double-century partnership between Travis Dean and Peter Handscomb and an astonishing regression among Queensland’s batsmen combined to give Victoria the ascendancy in the Sheffield Shield opener which had seemed out of their grasp.
The MCG pitch, which produced 763 runs in the first two-and-a-half days, for the loss of only 13 wickets, then featured the Bulls crumbling in their second innings for only 103 – seemingly with little cause to blame the pink ball. It was a rich endorsement of captain Matthew Wade’s decision to declare with seven overs remaining to gain bonus points and destructive Glenn Maxwell new to the crease.
James Pattinson claimed three new-ball wickets, including those of recalled Test batsmen Joe Burns and Usman Khawaja, while first-change paceman Peter Siddle dispatched three in the middle order. Only inexperienced batsmen Marnus Labuschagne and Jack Wildermuth made any impact with the bat for Queensland.
It was left to tailender Cameron Boyce to ensure the Bulls at least posted a three-figure total.
In response the Bushrangers, chasing 229 to win, survived the new ball under lights to be 0-38 after 15 overs in their second innings, with Dean on 23 and Rob Quiney on 14.
Besides a Queensland-like collapse, the biggest threat to Victoria snapping their six-year trend of failing to win their first home match is the adverse weather forecast.
Victoria have not pulled their weight over the past two decades when it comes to producing Test batsmen, but Dean and Handscomb’s 271-run stand provided a strong argument that weakness may be on track to be shed.
Dean, a 23-year-old whose chance has been earned through club cricket rather than from much-feted youth “pathways”, was on track to post the highest debut-innings score for more than half a century. He finished unbeaten on 154, three runs behind Kurtis Patterson’s total from 2011-12 and 11 behind Wayne Seabrook’s from 1984-85, when his captain Wade declared in the hope of securing a win in the last one and a half days of the match. Handscomb holed out shortly before the declaration, for a career-high 137.
The lack of pace in the pitch – until Victoria bowled again, that is – was evident in captain Khawaja’s field placements early on. Only one outfielder was deployed, at fine-leg, with most of the fielders used in a ring in front of square, to take advantage of bowlers enticing the batsman into lofted drives. The tactic did not work. Dean, a compact right-hander, resumed on 81.
He was not flashy but, more importantly, was not troubled by any of the Queensland bowlers. His maiden century was reached with a boundary from the deservedly part-time leg-spin of Labuschagne.
Handscomb started the day 35 runs behind Dean but steadily reducing that deficit. His innings was, as usual, conspicuous for his fine footwork against spin, but he also profited from deft late cuts. The emerging batsman, whose interest to national selectors was evident in his call-up last month to the one-day squad, joined his partner on three figures – for the fifth time in his shield career – late in the first session, with a cut boundary off Wildermuth.
Queensland’s desperation to make the most of the second new ball was sabotaged by poor fielding. In Ben Cutting’s first two overs of the second session he should have claimed the scalps of Dean for 134 and Handscomb for 123 but both were spurned, respectively by Labuschagne and Scott Henry.
Queensland (1st innings) 444
Victoria (1st Innings – overnight 2-147) R QUINEY lbw b Cutting 17 T DEAN not out 154 M STOINIS b Cutting 0 P HANDSCOMB c Reardon b Hopes 137 G MAXWELL not out 8Sundries (1lb, 2w) 3Total (3 wkts – decl) 319Fall of wickets: 31 (Quiney), 31 (Stoinis), 302 (Handscomb).Bowling: J Hopes 21-4-53-1, M Steketee 18-5-56-0 (1w), B Cutting 19-5-62-2, J Wildermuth 11-4-31-0 (1w), C Boyce 17-1-80-0, M Labuschagne 7-0-36-0.
Queensland (2nd Innings) S HENRY c Stoinis b Pattinson 7 J BURNS c Dean b Pattinson 6 U KHAWAJA c Maxwell b Pattinson 11 M LABUSCHAGNE c Handscomb b Maxwell 27 N REARDON lbw b Siddle 7 J WILDERMUTH c Hastings b Siddle 24 C HARTLEY lbw b Siddle 0 J HOPES b Hastings 1 B CUTTING lbw b Hastings 2 C BOYCE not out 10 M STEKETEE c Quiney b Ahmed 2Sundries (3b, 3lb) 6Total 103Fall of wickets: 8 (Henry), 22 (Khawaja), 25 (Burns), 32 (Reardon), 72 (Wildermuth), 75 (Hartley), 80 (Hopes), 86 (Cutting), 86 (Labuschagne), 103 (Steketee)Bowling: J Pattinson 9-2-35-3, J Hastings 10-1-29-2, P Siddle 8-0-21-3, G Maxwell 3-1-8-1, F Ahmed 2.3-0-4-1.
Victoria (2nd Innings T DEAN not out 23 R QUINEY not out 14Sundries (1nb) 1Total (no loss – close) 38Bowling: J Hopes 6-1-21-0 (1nb), B Cutting 4-1-7-0, M Steketee 3-1-8-0, J Wildermuth 2-1-2-0.
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