Jhye Richardson has issued an immediate notice to Australia’s selectors with an incisive four-wicket haul on his red-ball return, before Usman Khawaja cruised to his 41st first-class century.
The fit-again West Australian quick, in his first Sheffield Shield outing since November 2022, looked at his zippy best on his way to 4-36 from 23 overs against Queensland at the Gabba on Wednesday.
Bulls captain Khawaja, batting at No.4, defied it all to post an unbeaten 102 before suddenly declaring the innings closed at 8-274 as the light faded.
His side were only able to squeeze in two overs before bad light stopped play, the visitors 0-2 as Test aspirant Cameron Bancroft survived a big lbw shout off Jack Wildermuth on the penultimate ball.
“It was nice to be out there, nice and warm, and (my) body’s going to be sore tomorrow,” Richardson said of his long-awaited return to Shield action that was slowed after dislocating his right shoulder in a second XI match in October.
“The shoulder’s no issue … throwing is going to be a work in progress as it has been for the last two years, but bowling-wise, all good.
“Rusty early, but managed to get into it and felt good by the end.”
Richardson boasts a first-class average of 21 and a strike rate of 48, injuries restricting him to just three Tests in which he’s looked at home.
Endorsed for a Test return by former captain Tim Paine earlier this week to support Australia’s battle-weary pace battery, Richardson quickly reminded onlookers he remains a force.
Matt Renshaw (37) didn’t add to his overnight score in a missed opportunity for the Test contender, while Richardson found the edge of Joe Burns’ (21) bat.
Matthew Renshaw. (Photo by Steve Bell/Getty Images)
Test No.3 Marnus Labuschagne (0) then paddled a catch off the middle of his bat to square leg and the Bulls had lost 3-2.
Khawaja found a partner in Jack Clayton (53), the pair adding 116 before a probing Richardson again found an edge.
He was on a hat-trick when Jimmy Peirson was caught behind on the next ball, with Michael Neser becoming his fourth victim when caught at second slip by Bancroft.
Khawaja moved steadily towards triple figures before an audacious flick off a good length Richardson ball whistled towards midwicket to bring up his second Shield hundred of the season.
With Queensland sitting last on the Shield ladder after a string of close losses, Khawaja’s aggressive declaration after a rain-hit first day boosts the prospect of a result with two days still to play.
“Knowing Queensland want to make a game of it, it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out,” Richardson said.
Victoria took first innings points in Adelaide despite a maiden ton from Jake Fraser-McGurk.
He made 101 in the home side’s total of 252 as they lost 4-31 to fall 26 short of the Victorian total after wicketkeeper Sam Harper amassed 151 from just 104 deliveries.
McGurk received a reprieve on 19 when he was given out, caught at slip, off the spin of Doug Warren but was recalled by skipper Will Sutherland after standing his ground with replays showing he did not touch the ball. Harper admitted the ball deflected from his gloves rather than Fraser-McGurk’s outside edge.
Fergus O’Neill continued his breakout season for Victoria, claiming his maiden first-class five-wicket haul by snaring 5-28.
O’Neill was given excellent support by evergreen veteran Peter Siddle, who caused significant issues for South Australia’s top-order by taking 3-53.
In response, Victoria’s second innings got off to a rocky start as they had to negotiate a tricky period before stumps.
Test contender Marcus Harris failed for the second time in as many days with the opener out to Wes Agar for six.
Victoria finished on 1-12 with Mitchell Perry sent out as a nightwatchman in place of regular No.3 Will Pucovski.
At the SCG, Lawrence Neil-Smith has taken seven wickets for Tasmania in a roller-coaster of a Sheffield Shield match with NSW, whose own bowling attack inspired an early collapse in reply on day two.
Bad light and rain prevented play from going ahead in the third session after Mitchell Owen (70 not out) helped Tasmania recover to 6-166 by close of play at the SCG in reply to NSW’s 224.
The sides appear on an even keel heading into day three; the visitors trailing by 58 runs with four wickets in hand.
In a sour note for NSW, and potentially also the BBL’s Sydney Thunder, batter Ollie Davies suffered a hairline fracture in his left little finger while fielding on day two.
Davies had been the Blues’ saviour with the bat in the first innings, scoring an unbeaten 81, and could appear further down the order in the second.
The 23-year-old came off after suffering his injury and did not return to field.
“I don’t think he’ll take any part in fielding for the rest of the game,” NSW captain Moises Henriques told AAP.
“I don’t think he can come in before seven, but from there he’s going to be OK to bat. I don’t know how long after this game (he might be sidelined).”
Davies will be monitored ahead of the Thunder’s first game of the BBL against the Brisbane Heat on December 12.
Neil-Smith (7-58) picked up where he left off following a rain-affected first day, dispatching veteran quick Jackson Bird (12) to break a 52-run partnership with Davies.
The Tigers made light work of the Blues from there and when he bowled Chris Tremain for a duck, Neil-Smith had career-best figures with the hosts all out for 224.
Neil-Smith’s return was the sixth-best in a first-class match for Tasmania since the turn of the century, and the best since fellow paceman Sam Rainbird took 8-21 two summers ago.
“(Neil-Smith) has bowled unbelievably this year,” Owen told AAP.
“We’ve been running with two main quicks (Neil-Smith and Gabe Bell), they’ve been awesome.”
Just as NSW did on day one, the Tasmanian batting order misfired early.
Bird (3-46) took the first three wickets as the visitors fell to 3-30 on a tricky deck, having survived a dropped catch and appeal on their way to 0-29.
Things threatened to spiral further out of control when Henriques, enjoying a great summer with the ball, had rival captain Jordan Silk caught behind in the over before lunch.
In at eight, Owen inspired a fightback, partnering with Jake Doran (42no) in an unbeaten 96-run stand that helped the visitors bounce back from 6-70.
When the covers came on, 22-year-old Owen (70) was four runs shy of equalling his best first-class score. “Ideally if we can get 120, 150, 200 ahead, that’ll put some real pressure on their young batting line-up,” Owen said.