Alice Springs: A century from a dancing Marcus Harris helped Victoria ram home their advantage on day one of the Sheffield Shield final as South were made to rue three dropped catches in the hour after lunch.
Searching for a historic third consecutive Shield crown – something never achieved by the state in the competition’s 125 year history – the Bushrangers reached stumps at 3-322 after openers Travis Dean and Harris capitalised on lives given by Redbacks fieldsmen.
Having made a century in the Shield final two summers ago when playing for Western against Victoria, the Bushrangers were glad to have Harris on their side this time as the left-hander rode his luck before eventually being caught at gully on 120 by Joe Mennie off the bowling of Chadd Sayers.
Harris fell moments after Dean was bowled around his legs by Adam Zampa for 94, but only after the openers made South pay by adding 224 for the first wicket.
The pair had reached lunch largely untroubled at 0-86, but were tested after the interval. Harris posted his 50 just before lunch, but should have been gone on 54 after edging Mennie to first slip where Daniel Worrall spilled a straightforward chance. Worrall was later the unfortunate bowler as Harris offered a sharp chance on 59 to gully where Jake Lehmann couldn’t hang on. Harris’ two lucky breaks flanked a dropped catch at gully by Callum Ferguson as Dean flashed hard off Sayers on 32.
Forced to toil in near 40 degree heat, the Redbacks were punished as Dean and Harris reached tea with their partnership intact.
Harris capped an impressive first season with the Bushrangers when he posted his century shortly before tea, and celebrated his achievement with an unusual mid-pitch jig. The Victorian batsman attributed his moves to a viral video doing the rounds among the team.
On a more serious note, Harris said he wasn’t sure why Victoria had been troubled after lunch.
“It was just one of those things where a few things happened really quickly and we just had to calm it down a bit.”
Even after the openers departed Victoria didn’t relent as Rob Quiney and Aaron Finch continued to pile on the runs before Finch became Sayers’ 56th Shield victim of the summer when he was trapped LBW on 38 with the first delivery after the new ball was taken.
Quiney (44 not out) and Cameron White (seven not out) survived until the close of play, leaving Victoria in a commanding position.
Earlier, stand-in Victorian captain White won the toss and elected to bat in a match Victoria need only to draw to claim the trophy. Despite finding more green than expected on the pitch, the Bushrangers left paceman Scott Boland out of their XI, opting to pick Fawad Ahmed for just his second game of the season, acknowledging the leggie’s imposing record at the venue.