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The Queensland Bulls have all but secured hosting rights to the Sheffield Shield final after a crushing victory Western Australia, while the other spot will be fought out in a winner takes all duel. These are all the key points from Round 9 of the competition.
Queensland book hosting rights to Shield final
With just a single match remaining for all six states, the Queensland Bulls have more than an eight-point lead at the top of the competition.
Given there are six points for a win to go with bonus points (which Queensland should get regardless of result), it is almost unthinkable Queensland would not host the final at this point.
It follows another crushing win, with the Bulls finishing the season in fantastic form. They overcame the Western Australia Warriors by 211 runs in the second last round of the season, knocking them over for just 93 in the final innings of the match.
While their first innings effort wasn’t so convincing, setting up the match through another big Matt Renshaw tonne was.
Youngster Charlie Hemphrey was also impressive for the Bulls, scoring a not out century in the first and then 68 in the second dig.
In short, the Bulls seem like a team in form and with home ground advantage all but secured for the final, must be red-hot favourites to win the competition.
Victoria and Tasmania set to play knockout match in Hobart
While the Bulls have their spot secured in the final, the other will be battled out in Hobart.
Tasmania and Victoria, running second and third will face off during the final round of competition, with the two sides separated by just .18 of a point.
It’s incredibly tight and given Blundstone Arena is a result wicket more often than not, it seems only rain could stop either of these sides qualifying.
Even then, like the Bulls, they have an eight-point gap back to the next team on the table, being the fourth-placed New South Wales Blues who have no guarantee of beating the league-leading Bulls anyway.
Obviously, whoever wins, goes to the final. If it was to be drawn, then it will come down to bonus points, so every run over 200 and wicket in the first innings is going to be absolutely crucial for both sides in the pursuit for the final if weather does intervene.
Both sides have been in good form, claiming close wins in Round 9. The Tigers beat South Australia by just 16 runs, while the Victorians beat New South Wales by 23.
Matt Renshaw strikes again
The turn around in form of former Australian opener Matt Renshaw has been startling over the second half of the Shield season.
The first half was a disaster, but since he began to score runs, his scores have been 4, 51 not out, 56, 32, 170, 0, 112, 12, 3 and 143 not out. It means he has 583 runs at 72.87 in his last five matches.
While some not outs help to distort the average slightly, Renshaw has three centuries and another two half-centuries in that space of time and no matter what attacks he is facing, it’s clear the break from cricket over the New Year period has done him the world of good.
His form has been superb and if Queensland are to win the competition, Renshaw must play a major role – which, to be fair, I’ve said three weeks in a row, but he just continues to drive the point home, heaping pressure on other openers with Australian aspirations.
New South Wales Test aspirants don’t cut it
While the Blues have a heap of players in South Africa, their performances since they left just haven’t cut it.
This is a team with plenty of players who would love to be donning the Baggy Green, yet a team who can’t even beat Victoria at the Junction Oval.
While it came down to the wire, the Blues should have been further ahead. Regular wickets when batting though, combined with an attack lacking any sort of penetration have killed them in their pursuit to play in Australia’s biggest domestic match for the season.
While Steven O’Keefe was strong, taking match figures of 10 for 152 from 64.1 overs, he received no support with the ball. While there were plenty of starts with the bat from the likes of Daniel Hughes, Kurtis Patterson, Ed Cowan, Kurtis Patterson and Moises Henriques, no one could go on with it and in the end, it was the difference. On the other hand, Marcus Harris in the first and then Travis Dean in the second made centuries for the visitors.
Could Travis Head ever have a Test cricket career?
There are times gone by when calls have been made for South Australian captain and middle order batsman Travis Head to be considered for the national team.
Head is an expert white ball player – something we have seen in both the international ODI and T20 arenas, yet, he hasn’t quite made the switch to performing consistently in the Shield as yet.
The 24-year-old has a career first-class average of just 36.07, which is never going to land you in the Australian Test team.
A good 85 against Queensland last round, as well as 145 against Tasmania in Round 9 has put Head in some very solid form. He doesn’t appear to be on the radar for national selection at the moment, and without a Sheffield Shield final to aim at, there is nothing to play for except more runs in the final match.
Head’s natural aggression makes him a perfect fit down the order, while his part time off spin also adds versatility to any team he plays in.
Despite that, he needs to focus on the red ball side of the game and have a big season in 2018-19, because at his age, the window of opportunity for a Baggy Green – barring any Mike Hussey like form runs – is running out.
Here is all the key information you need to know heading into Round 10.
Sheffield Shield ladder
1. Queensland Bulls – 47.87
2. Tasmania Tigers – 39.29
3. Victoria Bushrangers – 39.11
4. New South Wales Blues – 31.79
5. Western Australia – 28.54
6. South Australia – 28.03
Round 10 fixtures (times AEDT)
Wednesday March 14 – Saturday March 17: Tasmania vs Victoria at Blundstone Arena, Hobart
Wednesday March 14 – Saturday March 17: New South Wales vs Queensland at North Dalton Park, Wollongong
Wednesday March 14 – Saturday March 17: South Australia vs Western Australia at Gilderol Stadium, Glenelg
The Sheffield Shield grand final will begin on Friday, March 23.
Roarers, what did you make of Round 9? Drop a comment and let us know.