After three days of bitterly bleak Adelaide weather that routinely saw players race from the field with rain tumbling and their hands thrust deep into pockets, the Marsh Sheffield Shield match between South Australia and Queensland was called off amid bright sunshine with almost 50 overs remaining this afternoon .
The decision to pull stumps shortly after 3pm on day four came after SA pair Nathan McSweeney (77no) and Jake Lehmann (68no) had survived 12 overs of the second new ball, and extended their team’s lead to 144 with no intention to declare and set the Bulls a last-session run chase.
That decision was largely based on SA’s day one disaster when they crashed to 5-25 in the opening session to ensure they chased the game from that moment on, but Queensland skipper Jimmy Peirson couldn’t hide his frustration at the premature stalemate.
“It is a bit disappointing because we would have played a game if South Australia had set us something, we definitely would have tried to chase it,” Peirson said after points were shared in the rain-ruined match.
“So there would have been a result from our end, but obviously the SACAs dug in and beat out the remainder of the day.
“It was still a good wicket, so we would have backed ourselves to chase anything from four an over onwards.
“Obviously it’s a new-ball wicket so we would have had to absorb that period and go from there, but we had a long batting order having played the extra batter this game.
‘We were really keen to get the result on day four because no-one likes finishing at 3.10pm when you’ve spent four days out on the field, in the best weather we’ve had for four days.
“But they were probably worried about us chasing something.”
Peirson also acknowledged his team had missed a couple of key moments, most notably on Tuesday evening after James Bazley’s free-wheeling 64no lifted their lead beyond 100 but his bowlers only snared a single wicket before stumps while leaking runs at more than three per over.
As much as the Bulls could claim a moral victory having driven the match from the time Peirson sent in SA on a well-grassed pitch under heavy skies, the Redbacks’ fightback offered signs of hope after once again being blown out of the water early in a game.
For the third time in as many Shield fixtures (including defeats against Tasmania and Western Australia), some hard truths were shared in the Redbacks dressing room as pressure mounts on a team that has produced a solitary win in almost two and half years of first- class cricket.
Stand-in skipper Lehmann lamented the day one calamity when it was left to keeper Harry Nielsen (90) and all-rounders Ben Manenti (33) and Nathan McAndrew (46no) to rescue them from 6-47 and post a competitive total of 240 .
“After day one we had a really big chat as a batting group, and said we need to own up to this and get better,” Lehmann said today.
“We’ve talked about how we can be our best selves in a situation that’s tough.
“They had quality bowlers, but everyone has quality bowlers – we have quality bowlers, yet they (Queensland) found a way to get through the new ball.
“For us, it’s probably gritting it out for a little bit longer, being harder on ourselves, and all the fine little details of being better and not making mistakes under pressure.
“We know next week we go to Tassie and they’ve also got a great attack, so the same situation is going to arise on day one or day two, whenever we bat against the new ball.
“We have to be really detailed in our training, in the warm-up, turn up ready to play and it doesn’t really matter what it looks like as long as we’re getting the outcome.
“I would have loved to try and set up something today and play a positive brand of cricket, but overall Queensland were just a little bit better for the three and a half days and we were under pressure.”
McAndrew had foreshadowed at the end of day three his team was unlikely to “dangle a carrot” for Queensland unless the hosts were able to pile on the runs in the first session, and therefore able to set a sizeable target.
That remote possibility was rendered redundant from the first ball of the final day, when Daniel Drew’s back-foot defensive stroke brought an edge that was smartly scooped at first slip by Max Bryant.
Then, when opener Jake Carder – recalled to fill the spot usually occupied by Henry Hunt, who is part of the PM’s XI playing West Indies in Canberra – nicked off soon after reaching his first half-century in 15 Shield innings, SA were suddenly batting to survive.
Sam Truloff’s brilliant one-handed catch diving low in front of second slip to remove Carder in the day’s third over meant the Redbacks were 3-100 and still two runs in arrears with new pair McSweeney and Lehmann at the crease.
But Queensland’s hopes of reprising Sunday’s carnage – when SA’s top-order folded like a paper umbrella in the unseasonal rain – slowly faded as Lehmann and former Bulls all-rounder McSweeney dropped anchor.
The pair added 70 in 34 overs prior to lunch, by which time SA’s lead had eked to 68, and by the time they reached their respective half-centuries in successive overs as bright sunshine arrived in the afternoon, any hope of a result became contrastingly bleak.
With left-handed Lehmann finding his stride and a flurry of boundaries after the break, Peirson turned to seamer Gurinder Sandhu to send down a couple of overs of off-spin.
Sandhu had first showcased his spin credentials during an Australia A tour to India in 2015, and had entertained his Queensland teammates in warm-up sessions during this game by impersonating the extravagant bowling action of former India spin great, Harbhajan Singh.
“He did it against Victoria at the Junction last year,” Peirson said of his ‘new’ off-spinner.
“Those skills come from his T20 bowling when he’s bowling pace but uses off-speed balls, and he actually gets really nice shape on the ball, being a tall man.
“It’s just something different to look at, and it’s a nice option to have but I don’t want it to detract from his pace bowling because he can get carried away with it.
“I enjoyed what came out of his hand, but I don’t think we’ll be seeing a whole lot of it just yet.”
The Bulls’ last hope of breaking open SA’s batting came with the second new-ball midway through the afternoon session, but by that stage the set pair had posted a century stand and taken the score to 3-221 which meant a lead of 119 with seven wickets up their sleeve.
In a show of either resignation or optimism, Peirson summoned Joe Burns – whose only Shield wicket across 100 matches remains Tasmania’s Jake Doran in 2017 – for two overs of off-spin with the near new-ball, but predictably they proved fruitless.
While Queensland could justifiably have felt most aggrieved that weather robbed the game of more than 50 overs across the first two days given the dominance they wielded in the opening session, SA can take solace from the scale of their fightback after such a lamentable start.
The only other time SA has salvaged a Shield draw having been reduced to 5-25 (or worse) in their first innings came against Queensland almost 70 years ago, when they found themselves 5-13 on a Gabba green top after the entire first two days were lost to rain.