The Almost Wicketless Session

Don’t you get out, Doran. Don’t you get out.

Jake Doran wasn’t even at the crease. Jordan Silk and Ben McDermott were. And Doran isn’t a bad batsman.

But that was the thought which came into my head: I wanted to watch George Bailey bat on day three of Tasmania’s Sheffield Shield match against South Australia, and any amount of time at the crease on day two, no matter how brief, jeopardized the possibility of that hope coming to pass. I knew it was irrational, as Doran did not necessarily have to get out for Bailey to come to the crease, and Matthew Wade, when he was Victorian captain, had used nightwatchmen before: the first time he did it in a Shield match, Scott Boland even made that irrational tactic look rational by scoring a half-century against the team that Wade now leads. But you can’t help what you think.

Almost Wicketless Session

Sure enough, when I looked at the score at stumps on day two, Doran had come in, and got out. Wade hadn’t used a nightwatchman or elevated himself or Paine, forcing Bailey to face two balls. But the former skipper had survived. He and Jordan Silk were to walk out at the resumption of play on day three.

It wasn’t easy. Joe Mennie and Daniel Worrall beat the bat with regularity. Silk and Bailey were under pressure from the outset. The latter’s first scoring shot was delayed by an excellent diving stop at gully. The former’s first run of the morning may have led to trouble for the latter if Jake Lehmann had fielded more cleanly at square-leg. Yet Tasmania had started the day in a strong position, and the lack of immediate wickets meant that play began to more closely resemble that reality. Bailey started finding the gaps between the bowler and mid-on and gully and point; he welcomed Kane Richardson’s arrival into the attack with a pull in front of square for four. Nick Winter was as worthy of respect as the other bowlers, and just as wicketless as the teams took drinks.

When the resumption of play brought about no additional success for the Redbacks, spin was seen for the first time in the match, Travis Head turning to his own off-breaks in a bid to change his team’s fortunes, and they needed changing. Silk had brought up his half-century soon after play had started, now Bailey had too. The Tasmanian score had reached 200; the lead, 250. By the last over, no wickets had been taken. All the plays and misses had been precisely that, all the LBW appeals had been turned down. Tasmania was in control, only one ball away from being the first team to have an unbroken batting partnership through a full session in the match. Bailey was on the way to a drought-breaking hundred, the sort of runs he gave up the captaincy to try and find again. Well, okay. He had already broken the drought. But I wanted to see him score a hundred. Most did.


Joe Mennie was to bowl that over. Mennie gets a hard rap. His sole Test was at Blundstone Arena, against South Africa in 2016. Then, Australia batted so badly that they had essentially already lost the game before he had bowled a ball. Having been a surprising selection ahead of Jackson Bird, Mennie received little sympathy from Australian or South African pundits, with the exception of Michael Hussey. He received even less from the Australian selectors, part of their mass clean-out after the Bellerive belting which saw five players dropped and the Test careers of Nathan Lyon and Usman Khawaja placed in peril.

Watch him at the level below, however, and you can see another part of his story, one similar to that of fellow teammates, Kane Richardson, Daniel Worrall and Chadd Sayers, where their craftsmanship has been successful over several seasons and the various objections brought up against them for higher honors simply don’t matter. Five balls of his over to Bailey had passed, thirty overs had passed in the morning before that, and it didn’t stop the last ball from being on target. This time, Bailey not only missed the ball, he was given out LBW. The closest thing the match would have to a wicketless session was gone, even if it had come too late to prevent Tasmania from taking a substantial advantage in the match.


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