Sheffield Shield, SA v WA: The Hill, the Hilditch and the Hughes

by Patrick O’Keeffe

I arrived at Adelaide Oval on the first morning of the Shield game between Western Australia and South Australia, feeling a great deal of apprehension. Since my last visit, the Edwin Smith, George Giffen, and Mostyn Evans Stands had been pulled down, which saddened me. I really loved those stands. Andrew Hilditch was at the gate to greet me as I walked in. I refrained from telling him that I was an opening batsman who bowled off spin.

George knocks over Towers early, but Robinson and Marsh form a solid partnership, scoring freely. In particular, Marsh looks very good on the front foot, timing the ball beautifully through the covers. WA end the first day on 7 for 309, thanks to a rescue mission conducted by Ashley Noffke, who has an unbeaten half century to his name.

Noffke departs in the first over of the second day. However some excellent hitting by the lower order propels WA past 400. Leg spinner Cullen Bailey ends the innings with two quick wickets, finishing with 4 for 62. He looked the most dangerous bowler throughout, bowling with good flight. Good to see him back.

SA start their first innings slowly. This tempo is maintained for the remainder of the day. Klinger is playing the anchor role and has moved to 64 not out at stumps. Around him, wickets fall as partnerships show promise yet do not persevere.

The third day follows a similar pattern for SA. I find myself sitting within close proximity to Australia’s Chairman of Selectors. Klinger is being frustrated by the tight bowling of Hogan, who is maintaining a nagging line on or around off stump. He is playing shots, through not timing the ball and not piercing a well set off side field. Eventually, he brings up another hundred. Applause from Hilditch, who then departs.

SA go to lunch on 249. I move over to the hill at the scoreboard end. The atmosphere is pleasant, with a few games of cricket in progress. A dad bowls offies to his son, however the gradient of the hill turns his offies into doosras. The kid doesn’t know what to do.

Suddenly, there is a commotion. “They’ve declared!” is the cry from the scoreboard. Names are torn from the board, causing loud crashing sounds. Instructions are shouted at attendants` who are moving with intent. “Borgas at 7”. “Harris?”,“Harris is coming”. “Smith?”. “Coming down. Ready?”, “Yeah Mate”. This could be a scoreboard, or it could be a big maxi out the front of the Sydney to Hobart.

Robinson and Towers stroll out after lunch. I am looking down the wicket as the leading wicket taker in the Shield, Peter George, steams in. He is quite gangly and bowls with a nice, fluent action. He has two big LBW shouts in a row against the right-handed Towers, and appears to be shaping the ball in. Next ball is edged to first slip. Quality bowling.
Meanwhile, sound check is being conducted for tonight’s carols by candlelight. A rockabilly version of Jingle Bells blasts across the Torrens River. This could be a low point in the history of music.

Perhaps unsettled by this, Robinson edges a delivery from George through to Manou. Marsh and Voges then make merry, with the former bringing up another ton.

WA declares, giving SA a day and a bit to make 352. This is achievable. Allan Border once referred to the “recent trauma syndrome” inflicted on his young team by the mighty West Indies. Through numerous batting collapses in recent years, the Redbacks have inflicted a fair amount of “recent trauma syndrome” on their supporters. Regardless, I live in hope.

Smith departs early on day four but Klinger and Harris are looking comfortable. Harris is then caught behind, bringing Cosgrove to the wicket. I am very interested by the fields set for the pair, especially while the quicks are on. For Cosgrove, Voges has a fourth slip, short cover, short mid wicket, short square leg and leg gully. Knowles is consistently pitching on middle and leg, encouraging Cosgrove to whip the ball off his hip to the close catchers. The plan nearly comes off on a few occasions. To counter this, Cosgrove takes guard on leg, and walks across his stumps as the ball is delivered. This nearly comes unstuck, as he spoons a ball just short of mid on.

Similarly, Klinger is confronted with several close catchers forward of the wicket, and is not afforded any width by the bowlers, while the slips cordon is sparsely populated. After notching another half century, Klinger edges Magoffin through to Ronchi. Cosgrove then plays on to Magoffin without further addition to the score. Soon after, Borgas plays an airy late cut to Voges and a diving catch is taken by the elder Marsh brother. Suddenly, SA have lost three quick wickets.

After tea, the Redbacks collapse. They lose a further 5 for 9, and the game is over. I arrive home to hear that Phillip Hughes has made it into the Australian squad for the Boxing Day Test. A very good selection. However, given his efforts in this game, Shaun Marsh must have been close.

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