Almanac cricket: Sheffield Shield final preview

Which Victoria will turn up in Glenelg this Saturday for the Sheffield Shield final? The Bushrangers outfit which took all before it in the run-up to the mid-season BBL break? Or the pallid bunch who surrendered meekly to Tasmania and Queensland (and almost to New South Wales) in successive matches in late February and early March? Either way, the wide margins between Victoria’s best and worst cricket lends more than the usual amount of intrigue to the season decider.

Of course, the same could be said of the Bushrangers’ opponents, who have hardly been models of consistency; South Australia were virtually dead and buried at the end of February, having been crushed by the Vics to the tune of 218 runs at the Adelaide Oval, and the following week soundly defeated by NSW in Coffs Harbour. But a thrilling one-wicket win in Perth was the beginning of an amazing resurgence which then saw the Croweaters pump the Tasmanians within two days. And, with other favourable results in that final round of matches, just like that South Australia found itself hosting the final. Today, the Redbacks announced an unchanged lineup.

Veteran Clint McKay’s inclusion in the Victorian squad has had some pundits musing that the pitch will favour seam. If so, this would be in contravention of the accepted wisdom that the home side must prepare a flat deck on which it is nigh on impossible for the visiting team to capture twenty wickets. The one point in favour of the home team preparing a deck with some sideways movement is that arguably their biggest asset is the Sayers-Mennie-Worrall triumvirate. The three seamers have captured 117 wickets between them, Mennie alone an outstanding 48 poles; Chadd Sayers’ reward was an all-expenses paid trip to New Zealand for the recent Test tour, albeit as a passenger only. To take this argument a step further, the Redbacks’ best spinner took 3/23 in his most recent competitive match – but that was against Bangladesh in India, and as such Adam Zampa will not be in Glenelg this weekend.

Apart from the afore-mentioned seam-bowling trio, the keys for the Redbacks appear to be the middle-order duo of Travis Head and that son of a gun Jake Lehmann. Head’s 699 runs includes three centuries – and when he scores a ton he generally goes big. But his season average of 38.83 in 19 innings speaks again of an inconsistent performer. Lehmann looks to be growing ever more comfortable walking in his father’s huge South Australian footsteps: 609 runs at an impressive 50+ average is an excellent return. Raphael, Ross and the slim-line Cosgrove have all been serviceable at best.

To me, the Victorian batting line-up appears unbalanced, with too many all-rounders who are neither one thing nor the other. Early-season revelation Travis Dean has not posted a big score since before the Big Bash break, and will be looking to finish the season as he started it. Bob Quiney, in what could be his final Shield game, will be looking to sign off in style. Peter Handscomb has 611 runs, but his average of 35 puts him in the same inconsistency basket as Travis Head. Marcus Stoinis’ ton in the red centre was timely, while Cam White’s stoic 97 not out saved both his team and, possibly, his first-class career. Matthew Wade is a handy batsman at first-class level, but should not be batting at #5, as he was last week in Alice Springs. I continue to question Dan Christian’s position in the Shield line-up, but am happy to be proven wrong this weekend. Recently, this Vics’ batting lineup has been even more flaky than SA’s, but the visitors look the more powerful on paper (but how many games are won ‘on paper’?).

Scott Boland and Chris Tremain hit the deck harder than any of their opposing counterparts, but lack the subtleties. This is where the character of the pitch will be important, as it was in Hobart especially. That was where Rainbird, Fekete and Gulbis hooped the ball around troubling all batsmen, while Boland, Tremain and Jake Reed continued to bang the ball in, only to see Tasmania plunder 8/566. Fawad Ahmed seems to have lost form and his captain’s confidence, and it would not surprise if Jon Holland is the preferred spinner if the Vics choose to go in with only one tweaker. Holland’s 6-wicket effort last week, in his first Shield game for the season, may well bring down the curtain on Fawad’s extraordinary first-class journey. I must stress that I hope that this is not the case.

Whilst South Australia will be without its best batsman, the seemingly ill-fated Callum Ferguson, and Zampa, the Victorians will be without a number of players who could well have proven the difference: any of Glenn Maxwell (averaging 56 with the bat, but on international duty), and bowlers James Pattinson (injured), Peter Siddle (injured) and John Hastings (T20) could well have been a wild-card. Aaron Finch, given his continuing red-ball struggles, may not have been selected even if available.

One could argue as to the foolishness of scheduling the Shield final on the opening weekend of the AFL season. It looks even more ridiculous when the final is being contested by two states in which Australian Rules is king. But CA’s counter argument, and rightly so, would be that regardless of the timing of the final, crowds are unlikely to attend anyway.

And for what it’s worth, I am tipping Victoria to recover from their recent average form and win convincingly.

About Darren Dawson

Always North.


  1. good old school scrappers’ shield game. Head says SA but heart says Vic, for former Australian captain in waiting, C White.

  2. E.regnans says

    That’s a very handy preview, Smokie.
    Hats off.

    I can’t see a draw being played out by these guys.
    Head, Lehmann. etc as you say, like to get stuck in.

    Well done to SA coach Jamie Siddons: another a fine Victorian.

    Is the Final still a 5-day game?
    Carna Vics.

  3. Shane Backx says

    How many games are won on paper, Darren? Actually they all are. They have these things called scorebooks!!!

  4. Smokie. It’s March. Footy has started early, not the other way around.
    I saw these 2 play at the ‘G. What a terrible game it was. All rounders versus blasters. Cosgrove and Ross looked the best of SA. Boland was good. Tremayne at times. Ahmed no. Worrying that they’ve gone to McKay. The game’s scheduled for 5 days but SA haven’t managed a draw this season. There’s apparently terrific interest over in Adelaide and they’ll get bumper crowds with OK weather – better at the Bay than The Alice.

  5. Nice job Smokie. Looking forward to it. Should be great down at the Bay Oval. Plan to walk down for a couple days.

    The Glenelg Footy Club website editorialized on their disappointment at having their pre and early season interrupted by cricket. The annual autumnal clash continues here as it does across the country. It’s a nonsense. Bugger off footy.

  6. Bays will cash up too from the cricket, although apparently the next Friday’s game v Westies has been put back (can we gat a rebate from the Council for not using the lights?).
    Mickey, I’m there for the next night game v Torrens Peckers.

  7. Luke Reynolds says

    Excellent preview Smokie.
    A pity it clashes with the opening of the AFL season, but the Rugby codes have been running for a few weeks anyway. What a shame it won’t be televised. Will be using up heaps of data at work streaming the final (working Sat & Sun).
    Thrilled with C.White’s form in the past two games. Don’t think M.Wade as captain has been good for his game, all in favour of a return as skipper for White, by far the best captain the Vics have had in my time following the game.
    Shaping up as the best final in a long, long time.
    Go Bushrangers!

  8. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Good to see that someone still cares, Smokie. Last time I watched Shield Cricket Julian Wiener was opening the batting for Victoria. Go Rangers !! (I sound like a Melbourne fan FFS)

  9. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Better write up than you’d get in the paper Smokie.

    I reckon SA will be OK as long as Fang Prior can get some pace out of the John H Ellers Memorial deck and Bobby Zadow gets the innings off to a good start.

  10. Steve Fahey says

    Great preview Smokie. I really enjoyed following the Vics’ rescue mission in Alice Springs last week -another great example of the drama and tension of long-form cricket.

    It could be the last Shield final as CA questions its relevance. I am a big fan of having a final, as they do in both of the shorter forms of the game. Yes, the home team nearly always does enough to win the Shield, but it is a high-stakes contest which often influences Test team selection. Would Adam Voges be playing for Australia if he hadn’t performed magnificently in last year’s Shield final ? Perhaps he would, on the back of a great season, but at his age, the performance in the final sealed the deal and look what has happened since. (Yes, the other guy who booked a ticket in the Ashes squad in that final was Fawad Ahmed, who has completely lost from since then, but this is not a bad strike rate. )

  11. Thanks Smokie, really enjoyed this. CA might be surprised at the number of people who would be interested. I reckon they should schedule it a week earlier.

  12. South Australia? This has me thinking. I’m j trying to recall who won the Shield back in 1981-82.

    It certainly wasn’t the Victorians who were embarking on a long downward slide after winning in consecutive seasons; 1978-79, 1979-80. Nor was it Queensland who failed to snare the holy grail until the 190’s.

    The first Shield final was 1982-83, when New South Wales upset Western Australia. Off the top of my head was the margin 54 runs? That was their first victory since 1965-66.

    Smokie i’m still trying to recall who won the final year there was no final. Sorry for the tortured language. It was either Western or South , Australia and as i type i’m tipping more towards the former. Please remind me.


  13. Thanks for the comments, all.
    It is encouraging to see that there is still plenty of interest in Shield cricket. I, for one, still scrutinise the fine print of the sports section to check the scores from around the country.

    Glen!, Sth Australia won the shield in 1981/82, the final season with no final.

  14. Dave Brown says

    Carn the SACAs. A good summary Smokie. Reckon it will be a result pitch down the Bay and, as highlighted by yourself and others, SA don’t do draws. Crowds should be decent given the gorgeous weather forecast and the opportunity to meet Mickey. Who will actually win is anybody’s guess.

  15. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Great preview Smokie a bloody nervous Redbacks supporter and yep don’t think our batting is good enough to bat for a draw ( wasn’t 81-82 a shield final ? )

  16. Dave Brown says

    There wasn’t a final in 81/82 Rulebook but SA had to win its last game to win the shield, so it probably felt like one. They beat Vic by 9 wickets to overtake NSW on the table. Jeff Crowe got 126 in SA’s 1st innings and Phillips 84* chasing 161 to win the shield

  17. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Yep of course sorry Dave years mixed up I got invited n to the rooms that night and as a 18 year old just sat back watched and observed it is a fantastic memory.Jeff Crowe hit the winning runs off the late
    John Scoles and the ball ended up nearly next to me

  18. I reckon Victoria have a greater chance of winning the match in Adelaide than in Alice Springs

  19. Great read. Go vics!!

  20. charlie brown says

    Rulebook, yes I was there in 1981/2 as well. Not sure if we’ll see a similar result this weekend but I intend being there to find out. Agree with others that we won’t see a 5th day draw. Not sure why but I have an inkling that Cossie will have a big influence on the match.

  21. Peter Flynn says

    Should Hanscomb been given out obstructing the field?


  22. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Flynny it is a debatable point personally yes in that it wasn’t a ball hurled back at him so in a involuntarily way he belted it away,Handscomb bizarrely took that action ball was not dead so there for out obstructing the field with sa given the chance to with draw the appeal there are points on each side but geez weird ( law 13 b of the rule book sa win the shield as often as I snare a stunner so out ! )

  23. E.regnans says

    This is all unfolding beautifully.
    Lunch Day 4 – South Australia lead by 147 runs with 3 wickets remaining.

    Should set up a difficult 4th innings chase…

  24. Dave Brown says

    Yep, should be some interest, though Sayers is injured. Vics should coast. As for the obstructing field appeal, you could argue SA could have been pinged under law 42 for distracting/obstructing the batsman. Glad the umpire did not give it out.

  25. Great result. Go Vics!

  26. In the end, I reckon a win by 7 wickets is reasonably convincing.
    Well played, Vics.

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