Another moment of brilliance from Beau Webster at slip – the second in two days – has put Tasmania in a commanding position at the halfway point of their Marsh Sheffield Shield clash at the MCG.
After being rolled for 121 on the opening day, Victoria rallied on the morning of day two to dismiss the visitors for 220, conceding a lead of less than 100 after both teams had batted once.
Stand-in captain Nic Maddinson then showed glimpses of his scintillating form from the past three seasons, racing to 35 off 43 balls as he threatened to get Victoria back into the contest before Webster intervened.
The Tasmanian talisman flew through the air like a soccer goalkeeper as Maddinson attempted to guide a rising delivery from Jackson Bird, clutching onto the spectacular catch with both hands to send the left-hander on his way.
It was the second act of aerial acrobatics from Webster across the first two days, after he also snaffled a low chance millimeters from the MCG turf to dismiss Victoria debutant Campbell Kellaway in the first innings, again off the bowling of Bird.
“There’s a pretty handy highlights reel of Beau,” Tassie wicketkeeper Jake Doran said post play.
“He took a very good catch in the first innings and now an even better one in the second, and this year I reckon there’s three or four others that I can think of off the top of my head that he’s taken.
“The most impressive thing is he just bowled the over before then he’s gone back to second slip and taken a hanger … we definitely needed that wicket as well.”
Bird has claimed four of the seven Victorian second innings wickets to fall so far, taking his match tally to eight as the hosts reached 7-162 at stumps on day two.
And while Will Sutherland (44) and Sam Harper (24no) – with the former elevated above the Vics gloveman to No.6 for this match – gave their side a 63-run lead that at least gives Victoria hope of putting Tasmania under pressure in their second innings, the visitors remain well and truly in the box seat.
Day two brought a reprieve for batters after they were greeted by a green-tinged pitch and overcast conditions 24 hours earlier, with the MCG bathed in bright sunshine for much of Friday’s morning session.
The in-from Doran, who has hit two one-day centuries already this season, proved that batting wasn’t impossible on a surface that has spent large parts of the past month under covers, scoring the only half century in the match so far .
Victoria’s young pace attack sent the off stumps of Jordan Silk (25) and Nathan Ellis cartwheeling – the Tassie skipper without offering a shot – before Doran went on the attack as the wickets fell around him, launching a huge straight six off spinner Matt Short that crashed into the fence on the full house.
The left-hander and Webster (28) threatened to take the game out of Victoria’s reach with an 80-run sixth-wicket partnership, before debutant Sam Elliott (3-45) found the inside edge of the Tasmanian allrounder’s bat with the ball ballooning off his pad to Sutherland at gully.
Doran was the last batt out for a mature 85 from 154 deliveries, feathering an edge for Harper to hand Sutherland his second wicket as Tasmania took a first innings lead of 99.
But the Tigers’ veteran new ball pair of Bird (4-19) and Peter Siddle (2-33) again proved a handful with Victoria’s openers, Ashley Chandrasinghe (8) and Travis Dean (16), again not able to provide anything of substance.
Short and Kellaway also fell cheaply before Sutherland and Harper provided hope with a 39-run sixth-wicket partnership.
But the wickets of Sutherland and Fergus O’Neill in the final 30 minutes of the day has Tasmania eyeing victory when play resumes tomorrow.
“Tassie are such a good bowling line-up they put you under so much pressure,” Maddinson said after stumps.
“When you look at some of the shots (our batters got out on) they might not be ideal if you look at them just by themselves, but in the lead up to it, they just give you absolutely nothing.
“So you’ve got to try and find a way to score and unfortunately, when that happened today we lost wickets.”