Tasmania v South Australia

John Polack
10-12 December 1998

Day 1

An inspired decision by South Australian captain Darren Lehmann to send Tasmania into bat paid handsome dividends for his team on the opening day of the Sheffield Shield match at the Bellerive Oval in Hobart today.  At stumps, SA was superbly placed at 1/86, just 94 runs adrift of Tasmania's paltry first innings total of 180.

The Redbacks' position of command was established on the back of a fine all-round bowling and fielding effort through the morning and early afternoon and a convincing batting performance in the final two hours of the day.  Making the most of some surprising early bounce in the Bellerive wicket, the team's bowlers honoured their captain's attacking decision in grand style, pressuring their opponents into consistent errors with a combination of an excellent length and a line which was rarely errant. Well supported by some fine catching and ground fielding, Greg Blewett (3/24) and Brad Young (2/29) returned the most impressive figures, but Mark Harrity, Brett Swain and Paul Wilson also bowled well.  If it had not been for a defiant 94 run stand for the sixth wicket between Daniel Marsh (58) and Rodney Tucker (41), the Tasmanians would have been staring at almost complete humiliation.

Following the early loss of opener Martin Faull for a duck, David Fitzgerald and Greg Blewett then took toll of an uninspired Tasmanian bowling attack in glorious late afternoon weather to post an unbroken stand of 85.  Although he was given a life on 28 courtesy of a difficult caught and bowled chance to Shaun Young, Blewett was particularly impressive, spanking 10 boundaries with some trademark pulling and cover driving in the process of posting an ominous unbeaten 58.  Fitzgerald was also largely untroubled in making 28.

Such was the poor quality of their play today that the Tasmanians will have to work extremely hard to force their way back into this match; indeed, if they can not remove Blewett and fellow danger man Lehmann early in the morning, then their hopes of securing any points from this game appear remote.

The only real sour note for the South Australians came in the middle of the afternoon when strike bowler Paul Wilson left the ground with what appeared to be a torn stomach muscle.  At this stage, it is believed that Wilson will not bowl again in the match.

Day 2

South Australia continued to assert its complete mastery of a lethargic Tasmania on day two of the Sheffield Shield match at the Bellerive Oval today.  Led by a brilliant partnership of 259 for the second wicket between Greg Blewett and David Fitzgerald - and by a breezy late contribution from the unheralded Jeff Vaughan - the Croweaters took full toll of a listless and unimaginative attack to set up a massive lead of 257 at stumps, with four first innings wickets still remaining.

In front of national selector Trevor Hohns, Blewett did his chances of an Australian recall no harm with a magnificent 152.  Laden with power and timing (and featuring a number of trademark cover and straight drives), his innings was a wonderful exhibition of controlled strokeplay and it was a surprise to all at the ground - including Blewett himself - when he became the victim of a dubious LBW decision to a Gerard Denton slower ball.

Although no less important to his team's cause, Fitzgerald's maiden first class century was a more subdued affair.  Generously given a life by a juggling Daniel Marsh at first slip off Mark Ridgway when on 44, the former Western Australian made the most of an oppressively hot Hobart day to compile a patient 135.  Characterised by a number of shots square of, and behind, the wicket, his innings (which was ended only by a brilliant leaping catch by Jamie Cox in the gully off Greg Rowell) was a study in concentration and discipline.

Recalled to the team in the wake of the axing of Chris Davies and Nathan Adcock and the continuing ill health of Jamie Siddons, Vaughan then hammered the South Australians' dominance home with a delightful unbeaten 99, 72 of which came in the session between tea and stumps as he pounded the Tasmanians with a tremendous array of shots.

Whilst Tasmania did experience a short period of joy in mid-afternoon when they removed Blewett and an unusually unimpressive Darren Lehmann (8) in quick succession, two particularly poor days of cricket appear to have left them in a futile position in this match.  Of their bowlers, Ridgway (3/95) returned the best figues but, in truth, none looked even vaguely menacing today.

Day 3

South Australia's complete domination of its Sheffield Match against Tasmania was emphatically converted into outright points in Hobart today. The final margin of victory of an innings and 140 runs was an adequate reflection of how effectively the South Australians controlled this match from the moment their captain made his bold gambit to send Tasmania in to bat on Thursday on what essentially proved to be a placid Bellerive wicket.

As they had done throughout this game, the Redbacks played intelligently from the outset of the third day, expeditiously extending their overnight advantage of 257 to a final first innings lead of 295.  The highlight of the morning's batting was clearly provided by Jeff Vaughan, who registered his maiden first class century off the second ball of the day before going on to make a fine 121.  For Tasmania, Greg Rowell collected two of the three wickets to fall to finish with 3/75 and take the bowling honours for his team.

Although they were missing their opening bowler Paul Wilson (who, it is feared, may be out of action for up to six weeks with torn muscles in his side), the South Australians then produced an even better bowling performance than the one which saw them demolish the Tasmanians in the first innings.  Watched by a somewaht disbelieving crowd, the Tigers capitulated in the face of a hostile display of pace bowling to be all out for a sorry total of 155.  Whilst the meek surrender was halted to some extent by Michael DiVenuto (who produced a blazing innings of 60), the story of the Tasmanian batting was again one of woe as its batsmen too easily gave their wickets away.  Greg Blewett continued his magical game by mopping up the tail to finish with 3/26 to add to his first innings 3/24 and his sensational 152 with the bat.  Mark Harrity also returned fine figures in taking 3/42, as did the promising Brett Swain, who provided the team with the crucial early wickets of Jamie Cox and Dene Hills on his way to capturing 3/44.

In the end, then, this game was one which featured completely contrasting performances from the two sides involved.  Building on their spirited win over Victoria in their previous match, the South Australians teamed together superbly.  The batting of Blewett, Fitzgerald and Vaughan was magnificent; the bowling of Harrity, Swain, Blewett and Brad Young was consistently good; the all-round fielding was of an extremely high standard; and the sense of urgency and imagination which they showed under Darren Lehmann's leadership was wonderful to watch.  For last year's Shield runners-up, however, this game represented a continuation of what has been a generally lamentable season to date.  Indeed, this was their worst ever Shield defeat at home and it is a performance which is only likely to add fuel to growing speculation across the State that drastic changes need to be made to the playing personnel and to the outlook and philosophy of the side.