Mark Steketee and Michael Neser did their utmost but New South Wales has limped home with an ugly win over Queensland.
New South Wales has had the last laugh after three days of utter carnage in its Sheffield Shield clash against Queensland, which sped to a gripping conclusion on Friday afternoon.
Only the most experienced of batters – Usman Khawaja, Daniel Hughes and Marnus Labuschagne – were able to make a go of the tough Gabba wicket and pacemen from both sides of the Tweed cashed in.
Neither batting order cracked 200 runs in either of its innings as Chris Tremain, Michael Neser (twice), Mark Steketee (twice) and Trent Copeland all bagged three-fers or better.
In total, 38wickets fell for a total of just 545 runs across three days of play. Ouch.
Queensland’s tail drooped at the top of day three, leaving the side with only 129 runs to show for itself in the second innings.
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The Blues might’ve thought they’d be back in their hotel rooms sipping 4X Gold by the tea break with a day off on Saturday to boot.
But recent Test debutant Neser and Steketee, who had taken a five-fer in the first innings, had other plans.
Within minutes, NSW had lost both openers, who managed only two runs between them and left the scorecard at 2-2.
Steketee bowled Ryan Hackney with a yorker, turning in a wicket maiden with his first over.
Apparently determined to outdo his teammate, Neser claimed the huge scalp of Hughes, NSW’s first-innings saviour, shortly afterwards. The veteran opener was caught behind by gloveman Jimmy Peirson, unable to replicate the unbeaten 86 he scored in his first knock.
Jason Sangha enjoyed a breakout BBL campaign with the Sydney Thunder this summer but when he managed only 11 runs on Friday before Jack Wildermuth trapped him LBW, the alarm bells became deafening for NSW.
Suddenly, the visitors looked a chance to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Hughes admitted the “nerve-wracking” final session had him biting his fingernails.
“I couldn’t sit down! Well done to the boys, that’s a huge win,” he said at stumps.
“To play a full-strength Bulls team at the Gabba and get a win is a huge credit to the lads.”
But with ample time and wickets to spare, a few pairs of steady hands combined to stem the bleeding.
As their teammates fell around them, Lachlan Hearne (28 before he was caught by a jubilant Labuschagne), Jack Edwards (24, the second of Steketee’s second-innings victims) and Baxter Holt (20, playing just his fourth first class match) combined to get the job done with twowickets in hand.
Khawaja lamented Queensland’s performance at stumps.
“We were nowhere near our best and it cost us,” he said.
“We’ve shown glimpses of really, really good cricket this year and we’ve shown some really poor patches. We’re just not combining for long enough to win Shield games.
“It’s frustrating. It’s probably a game we should have won, but we didn’t New South Wales were the better team.”
The umpire bungled a call at the death that could have changed everything.
Neser threw from the deep to wicketkeeper Peirson, whose no-look flick hit the stumps as Tremain scrambled back for a second run.
The umpire deemed the New South Welshman had made it into his crease in time, but replays proved otherwise.
Had the wicket stood, NSW would’ve been left with just one in hand.
Instead, Tremain lived to fight another day, hitting a four through mid-off shortly afterwards to all but end the contest.
“Those are the sort of things that happen in Shield cricket,” Khawaja said.
“You’ve just got to cop it on the chin.”
Steketee impressed with the ball before the Sheffield Shield went on hiatus and his eight-wicket haul in his first match back, even on a helpful decked, wouldn’t have been missed by Aussie selectors.
Now that Neser and Scott Boland have popped their Test cherries, Steketee is undoubtedly the next quick off the rank.
He may need to wait some time, though, having missed out on selection in the squad to tour Pakistan from March.
Late Labuschagne dismissal gives NSW hope
Queensland’s hopes of building an imposing lead over NSW were dented when Test star Marnus Labuschagne was dismissed late on the second day of a tight Sheffield Shield battle at the Gabba.
Labuschagne seemed set for a big score until he skied a ball from Harry Conway to backward square leg, where Tanveer Sangha took a good catch to send the classy right-hander packing for 44.
Sam Truloff (18) followed Labuschagne back to the pavilion soon after as the Bulls – who also lost the wickets captain Usman Khawaja (6), Bryce Street (14) and Matthew Renshaw (12) – stumbled to 5-105 at stumps.
It gives the hosts, who have wicket-keeper Jimmy Peirson (3*) and all-rounder Jack Wildermuth (0*) unbeaten at the crease, an overall lead of 112 with two days remaining of what has been a low-scoring affair largely dominated by the ball.
Bulls paceman Mark Steketee earlier bagged a five-wicket haul as the Blues were bowled out for 186, seven runs shy of Queensland’s first-innings total of 193.
That was despite a heroic unbeaten knock of 86 from Blues skipper Daniel Hughes, who carried his bat through the NSW innings.
Hughes’ defiant and entertaining 155-ball innings included 14 boundaries.
However, with the Blues’ nearing an unlikely first-innings lead after earlier slumping to 7-86, No.11 batsman Tanveer Sangha (1) popped up a catch to Mitchell Swepson in the covers to give Steketee his fifth wicket of the innings.
Named as a standby player for Australia’s tour of Pakistan, Steketee celebrated with the figures of 5-46 from 19.1 overs, taking the final three wickets of the Blues innings to go with the two he claimed on Wednesday afternoon.
Steketee was ably supported by Test paceman Michael Neser (3-68), while Wildermuth and James Bazley claimed a wicket apiece.
Blues tailender Chris Tremain (37) provided the most support to Hughes, with the pair sharing in a 66-run eighth wicket partnership.
It was eventually Steketee who broke the partnership, with Tremain edging to first slip, where Renshaw took a low catch.
Having started the day at 2-33, the Blues had slumped to 7-125 at lunch.
Neser, who made his Test debut in the recent Ashes series, took three of the five wickets to fall in the morning session.
He had Jack Edwards (12) and Baxter Holt (10) caught at second slip by Truloff, and also had Trent Copeland (0) edging to the slips, where Labuschagne grabbed the catch.
Test hero thwarts disaster
A captain’s knock from Usman Khawaja saved the Queensland Bulls from total disaster on the opening day of their Sheffield Shield clash against NSW at the Gabba.
Having moved to the top of the order after Joe Burns was ruled out with Covid-19, Bulls skipper Khawaja made a fighting 63 before a dramatic batting collapse, in which Queensland lost its final six wickets for just 46 runs, resulted in the hosts being bowled out for a paltry 193.
In reply, the Blues were 2-33 at stumps, with Bulls paceman Mark Steketee (2-6) having claimed the wickets of debutant Ryan Hackney (0) and Jason Sangha (14).
Hackney made the brave decision to play following the death of his father Peter last week from a heart attack.
Cricket NSW’s head of male performance Michael Klinger said: “NSW was always going to support him regardless of what decision he made.
“However, Ryan came back and said that not only had he worked too hard to turn down the opportunity, but he knew that his father would want him to take it.
“Over the last week Ryan has shown a high degree of resilience dealing with an extremely
Hackney wasn’t the only batsman to struggle, with only four Bulls batsmen reaching double figures.
Sam Truloff (37) and Test bowler Michael Neser (24 not out) the next best scorers after Khawaja.
Khawaja’s fellow Test star Marnus Labuschagne was an early casualty as the Bulls slumped to 2-24 in the 15th over.
Labuschagne – who came to the wicket with Queensland at 1-9 after the dismissal of Bryce Street for five – only made eight in a 26-ball innings that ended when he failed to offer a shot to a Trent Copeland delivery that smashed into his pads.
An unbeaten 36-run partnership between Khawaja and Matt Renshaw took the Bulls to 2-60 at lunch.
Renshaw eventually fell with the Bulls total at 79 when he top-edged an attempted pull shot off the bowling of Chris Tremain.
Harry Conway ran around from mid-on to take the catch and end Renshaw’s innings at 12 from 61 balls.
Truloff, playing for Queensland for the first time since 2018, joined Khawaja at the crease, with the pair sharing in a 61-run partnership before the Bulls skipper was caught at first slip by Copeland off the bowling of Jack Edwards in the 54th over.
The dismissal of Truloff, who made 37 before being trapped LBW almost immediately after tea by Edwards, signalled the start of the Bulls’ collapse, with only Michael Neser (24 not out) providing any genuine late-order resistance.
Paceman Tremain was the pick of the Blues’ bowlers, taking 3-26 off 17 overs.
Tremain was ably supported by Edwards (2-17), Tanveer Sangha (2-17) and Hayden Kerr (2-41).
“It (the Gabba pitch) offers everything that you need as a fast bowler – the challenge is bowling full enough,” Tremain said.
“What we most like about the Gabba is a team is going to get bowled out twice. There are seldom draws here”
NSW batsman Matthew Gilkes was a late withdrawal from the match after testing positive to Covid-19. His place went to Lachlan Hearne.
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