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Opinion

Eight early takes from the Sheffield Shield

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Roar Guru
12th October, 2020
108

The Sheffield Shield is back – here’s what I’ve observed so far.

1.Isn’t it great to have some first class cricket to watch?
Cricket Australia’s coverage of the Shield cricket is such a welcome way to start the new cricket season.

For those of us not lucky enough to be able to go out and watch the games being played in Adelaide, this is almost the next best thing.

I say “almost”, because it would be great if they’d invest in a camera at either end. I’m not complaining because I’m just happy to watch some four-day cricket, but this coverage takes me back to the days when the ABC covered the game and Norman May was the voice of the sport on TV.

At least this coverage is in colour, not black and white!

2. Test hopefuls need to make the most of their chances
Joe Burns can be excused for getting out to an absolute beauty from Peter Siddle. That will happen early in an innings against the new ball, but I’m not sure what Usman Khawaja was thinking when he played completely across the line, nine balls into his knock?

It’s only the first innings of a new season, but there will not be a lot of chances for guys like Khawaja to shine, before the side for the First Test is announced. He and others vying for selection must make every post a winner if they’re to be any chance of getting into the Australian side.

Joe Burns

I was saying Boo-urns: Joe Burns. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

3. Matt Renshaw looked the goods
If Matty Renshaw’s first Shield innings is any indication, he’s used his off-season down-time well.

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One commentator said he “looked a million bucks” and he certainly seemed very comfortable and totally in control. He played well within himself and left the ball well, which had been one of several issues he had last season.

Batting down the order might be the best option for him. Now he needs to string together a series of big scores to prove that’s the case and to put pressure on Matt Wade and Travis Head to match his efforts.

Special mention too for Cameron Bancroft. Great to see him back at the top of the order for WA. Hopefully he’s got his head together and can make some big scores.

4. Can we help the umpires please?
I’ve banged on about this over the past 12 months, but Cricket Australia could do worse things than use DRS reviews for Shield cricket. Two example highlight why this is important.

Both Usman Khawaja and Matt Renshaw are trying to get back into the Test side. Both were given out to tight decisions, one LBW to a right hander coming around the wicket (Khawaja) and the other run out at the bowlers end attempting a quick single, with the umpire scrambling to get into position.

I’m not suggesting either decision was wrong, but we’re talking about guys’ futures in the game here. These are players desperate to break back into Test cricket and if their innings was cut short as a result of a wrong decision, that can hurt their chances immensely.

Of course some might suggest they shouldn’t have played the shot or attempted the single, but that’s beside the point.

Shield games should be seen as a springboard to Test level. Bowlers gain nothing by picking up wickets with deliveries that will either miss the stumps or miss the edge of the bat and batsmen will obviously have little chance to impress, if they’re sitting in the sheds thanks to a bad decision.

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5. Marnus Labuschagne looked very good in making 167
Granted he rode his luck early, but for a first innings of the new Shield season, he looked mighty good.

So did Josh Inglis. Tim Paine has the Test keeping spot locked up for at least the next two Aussie summers, but there’s been an assumption Alex Carey will take over the gloves when Paine retires from Test cricket.

Inglis maiden Test century is a nice reminder that there are other talented keepers out there. Now all he has to do is keep well and make runs.

Marnus Labuschagne.

(Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

6. Lloyd Pope has a long way to go
It’s a great achievement to take the first five wickets in any match, but for a leggie to do it in the first Shield game, on a pitch offering little to anyone, is a real achievement. But….

His wickets cost him 164 runs which is way too expensive for a first class spinner (6.07 runs per over). He can bowl unplayable deliveries, like the ball that dismissed Cam Bancroft, but there are way too many long hops or full tosses.

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In fairness, Pope’s only 20 years old, so there’s plenty of hope he can and will improve his control over the next few seasons. We badly need another quality spinner who can develop into a replacement for Nathan Lyon.

7. Shield pitches need to become more sporting
At the time of writing, over 650 runs had been scored in the game between Western Australia and SA for the loss of only six wickets, while the pitch used in the Queensland/Tasmania game, looked like it was offering little to the bowlers.

It’s only the first game of the season and curators would be wanting to make sure they prepared surfaces that lasted the full four days, so there are excuses.

Hopefully as the season progresses, we’ll see more pitches that offer something to both the quicks and the spinners, which in turn will present genuine challenges to batsmen to score runs when the ball is moving around.

8. What’s Peter Siddle thinking with that haircut?
I’m guessing Joe Burns might have been wondering the same thing, when Siddle got him with a great ball.

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Perhaps the move to Tassie colours made him think he had to do something special for his new teammate s, or maybe he changed the colour to win a bet.

Whatever the reason, he certainly stands out when he takes off the hat to bowl.