Marcus Harris was in impeccable touch in last week’s clash with NSW but it’s been a different story for the Victorian opener in the rematch.
Some extra intrigue has been added to the battle for the second opening spot in the Australian batting line-up for the upcoming Ashes series, with the incumbent Marcus Harris failing again for Victoria on Sunday.
After only managing one in the first innings of their Sheffield Shield clash with New South Wales at the MCG, Harris was dismissed for a duck early on the third day, trapped lbw by Sean Abbott.
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He might have considered himself a tad unlucky, as not only did he appear to be a long way forward, but the ball looked like it may have hit him high on his pad.
Harris did of course make a superb century against the Blues in Victoria’s last match, but with the first Test against England only a month away, he only has one more opportunity at Shield level before then to impress national selectors and cement his place as David Warner’s opening partner.
And he wouldn’t want to rest on his laurels, either, with Queensland’s Usman Khawaja starting the first-class season with a bang, having already hit back-to-back centuries against South Australia and Tasmania.
New South Wales were bowled out for 140 shortly before Harris’ dismissal, and headed into the second innings still 173 runs behind the Bushrangers who made 9-313 (declared) in their first dig.
It didn’t take long for the Vics to wrap things up, with Peter Nevill (16) hitting the second ball of the morning down to long on and into the waiting hands of Nic Maddinson off the bowling of Wil Parker (1-11).
The hobbled Trent Copeland (seven) was the not-out batsman, but isn’t expected to bowl in the second innings due to a lower leg injury sustained on Friday. He required a runner while batting.
The Vics have opted not to enforce the follow-on, giving their pace battery a well-earned rest after their sensational performance on Saturday.
Scott Boland (3-33), James Pattinson (2-27), Will Sutherland (2-41) and Mitchell Perry (1-24) provided minimal respite for the visiting batsmen, and the pressure eventually became too much with NSW crumbling to lose their last seven wickets for just 42 runs.
Opener Daniel Hughes (59) was the only one who put up any meaningful resistance, but his wicket, a calamitous run-out, sparked his side’s spectacular collapse.
Shortly after tea on day two, the Blues lost 4-4 in 15 balls, with their fifth, sixth and seventh wickets all falling for no run.
NSW rues another collapse
A spectacular New South Wales batting collapse has placed Victoria in a commanding position at stumps on day two of their Sheffield Shield clash at the MCG.
After the Bushrangers declared on 9-313 earlier on Saturday, the contest was evenly poised with the Blues 3-98 shortly after tea.
But the visitors proceeded to lose 4-4 in 15 balls to slump to 7-102 – their fifth, sixth and seventh wickets falling for no runs – and are precariously placed at 9-139, still 174 behind Victoria.
Rain ended play early, and day three will commence 30 minutes earlier than planned at 10am.
The carnage began for the Blues when the anchor of their innings Daniel Hughes (59) was run out after a catastrophic miscommunication with Jack Edwards.
Will Sutherland gathered the ball at backward point, and threw it to James Pattinson who did the rest at the bowler’s end.
Two overs later, Pattinson (2-27) tore through the visitors’ middle order, taking two wickets in three balls, sending both Edwards (seven) and Sean Abbott (zero) to the pavilion after the pair edged the Victorian quick to wicketkeeper Sam Harper.
And in the following over, Sutherland (2-41) found Lachlan Hearne’s outside edge, with Matt Short taking a good catch at first slip. Scott Boland has been the pick of the Victorian bowlers with 3-33.
Earlier, Victorian spinner Jon Holland was officially subbed out of the clash after failing a concussion test.
Holland was replaced in the line-up by leg-spinner Wil Parker.
And New South Wales are likely to be down a bowler for the remainder of the contest with MRI results showing that paceman Trent Copeland suffered a plantaris injury in his lower left leg on Friday.
It’s a rare injury that is managed like a low-level calf strain and while Copeland managed to bat with the aid of a runner, he will be unlikely to bowl in the second innings.
Victoria’s first innings ended prematurely when Holland was smashed on the helmet by New South Wales quick Liam Hatcher.
In a scary moment for Holland midway through the first session, he misjudged a Hatcher short ball and his head copped the full brunt of the delivery.
After Holland was assessed for a few minutes out on the ground by medical staff, Bushrangers captain Peter Handscomb decided to declare the innings closed, rather than put Holland at any unnecessary risk. And it turned out to be a wise move given Holland’s eventual diagnosis.
Holland became the third batsman to be hit in the head in the Victorian innings, with James Seymour (twice) and James Pattinson also suffering the same fate.
Hatcher (two) and fellow paceman Abbott (two) were responsible for all four instances.
The Blues fought back well to take the Bushrangers’ last seven wickets for just 63 runs, with Hatcher leading the way with a career-best 4-86, and Nathan Lyon (3-63) also playing a handy role. But the visitors undid all that good work with a shoddy batting performance.
MCG back in action
It’s alive. It’s alive!
As Dr Frankenstein did with his monstrous creation in Mary Shelley’s literary masterpiece, the MCG’s talented team of curators have injected plenty of life into the venue’s centre wicket area, and Victorian fast bowler Scott Boland couldn’t be happier.
Gone are the drab roads of years gone by, instead a greener, livelier patch of turf now resides in the middle of the ground, and, in a good omen for the Boxing Day Test next month, it’s making for some entertaining cricket.
“The last few years have been different to probably five years before that,” Boland said at stumps on day two of the Bushrangers’ Sheffield Shield clash with New South Wales.
“There’s a bit more grass on it now, much better carry, especially for day two. Sometimes you rock up here and it looks like a one-day wicket.
“For a few years we just played draw after draw after draw out here, so it’s nice to rock up to the ground and have the opportunity to take 20 wickets.”
There were fireworks aplenty in the final session, as the Vics took 4-4 in 15 balls to reduce NSW to 7-102 before having them precariously placed at 9-139 at stumps, still 174 behind Victoria (9-313 declared).
Victoria’s pace attack, comprising of Boland (3-33), James Pattinson (2-27), Will Sutherland (2-41) and Mitchell Perry (1-24), were relentless, making life consistently uncomfortable for the Blues’ batsmen.
And after numerous play-and-misses, edges that didn’t carry, and the odd dropped catch, they were finally rewarded with a devastating period after tea.
“Even (with NSW) at 3-90 we still thought we were bowling really well,” Boland said.
“The beauty of having ‘Patto’ come back in and bat at seven, it gives us four quicks and a spin option so we feel that (bowling) team is going to be at them the whole time.”
Boland has made a cracking start to the summer, taking 10-106 from his three innings so far, but he insisted a possible Test call-up wasn’t in the back of his mind.
NSW opening batsman Daniel Hughes (59) agreed it was a welcome change to see an MCG wicket as good as this.
“There’s nice pace and bounce and a bit of nip in it, if you get through that there’s runs to be had out there as well,” he said.
“It’s actually been a while … the last few years it’s been a bit flat and a bit docile but it’s nice to see the pace and carry in it again.”
Hughes’ run-out sparked New South Wales’ dramatic collapse, and he viewed it as a “turning point”.
“When they got that opening they took full advantage of that,” he said.
The second day of play was marred by a nasty incident which saw Victorian tailender Jon Holland smashed on the helmet by Blues quick Liam Hatcher (4-86), and subsequently subbed out of the game.
Boland said that in the evening Holland was still feeling “a bit crook” and had already gone home with a headache.
And while Trent Copeland (lower leg) is doubtful to bowl in the second innings for NSW, Hughes was encouraged at the sight of seeing the tall quick batting late on Saturday.
Hughes wasn’t giving up on victory, either, despite the terrible position his team finds themselves in.
“Tomorrow brings another opportunity when we get the ball in our hands … it could be a good day,” he said.
Former Test batsman Nic Maddinson should prepare for a delayed start to his Big Bash campaign with an Australia A call-up, at least, likely following another blistering century for Victoria.
The swashbuckling left-hander has been a revelation against the red ball since moving south from NSW and put some of his former teammates, including Test spinner Nathan Lyon, to the sword as cricket returned to the MCG on Friday.
Battling a bowling line-up without veteran Trent Copeland, who was sent for scans on his foot after injuring himself in his third over of the Sheffield Shield clash, Maddinson powered to his 14th first class hundred, and sixth for Victoria, in imperious fashion with a boundary.
With rookie Victorian opener James Seymour (105) also notching his maiden Shield hundred, in just his fourth innings and after being struck twice on the helmet by short balls from Sean Abbott, the Vics had been in a powerful position.
But a final session collapse, including Lyon finally removing Maddinson in the minutes before stumps for 128, saw the home team drop from 2-250 to 6-283.
Cricket Australia on Friday confirmed there would be an Australian intra-squad clash in Brisbane starting December 1 as crucial preparation for the Ashes, and from which the final squad will be picked.
Maddinson, who played the last of his three Tests in 2016, could expect to be part of that match and then an Australia A team which will take on the England Lions in Brisbane from December 9, the match running concurrently with the first Ashes test at the Gabba.
“I’m playing Shield cricket because I want to play Test cricket again, that’s the motivation for sure,” Maddinson said after his innings.
After making 87, with four sixes, against NSW last week, Maddinson, 29, is averaging 108 through three innings after a delayed start to this domestic season, having been the leading run-scorer in the Shield in the 2019-20 season
Prospective Test opener Marcus Harris was out for just one earlier in the day after Victoria was sent in.,
But having made 137 against NSW last week in a mammoth 361-ball innings, he was confident Test selection would be based on a “body of work” and not individual scores, knowing he has a few runs in the bank to lean on as Ashes selection D-Day draws closer.
Harris, who was out edging Liam Hatcher to slip in the sixth over, is a certainty to be part of an extended Test squad that will assemble towards the end of November to begin preparations for the Ashes.
“I had a really good conversation with George Bailey probably a week ago,” Harris said this week.
“I sort of know where I stand and what needs to happen and what I need to do.
“I think (selection is) probably going to be more (based) on a body of work rather than a couple of Shield games at the start of the season.”
Before the match NSW keeper Peter Nevill said it was hard to see a weakness in Harris’ game during his massive innings last week, and he was the frontrunner to partner Warner in the opening Test.
“He‘s obviously had a very good off-season in England as well. He’s been churning out the runs for a long period of time,” Nevill said.
“If they need an opener to partner with David Warner for the first Test, I’m sure he’s well and truly in the frame.
“He seems to be the front runner for mine.”
Originally published as Sheffield Shield: Marcus Harris’ Ashes hopes take a tumble