Victoria 487 (Harris 120, Dean 94, Pattinson 80, Gotch 52, Sayers 7-84) and 323 (Finch 83, Christian 58) drew with South Australia 287 (Weatherald 60, Carey 57, Holland 7-82) and 6 for 236 (Head 137*, Fawad 3-81)
Victoria have completed a hat-trick of Sheffield Shield titles for the first time in the state’s history, wrapping up a third consecutive triumph by playing out a draw with South Australia in Alice Springs. The Bushrangers were in control for virtually the whole match and on the final day set the Redbacks an unrealistic 524 for victory; play was called off late in the afternoon with South Australia on 6 for 236.
It was the second straight year that South Australia had reached the final and hoped to break a two-decade Sheffield Shield drought, only to be thwarted by Victoria in the decider both times. Last year, South Australia had enjoyed the significant advantage of hosting and thus required only a draw to secure the title, but Victoria had managed to pull off a victory in the final at Glenelg.
Victoria’s three-peat was all the more remarkable for having come under three different coaches: Greg Shipperd steered them to the 2014-15 title, David Saker had the reins in 2015-16, and Andrew McDonald was in charge this year. They also had to overcome the challenge of playing all three finals outside the state – in 2014-15 they had “hosted” Western Australia in the final at Bellerive Oval in Hobart.
It was just the third time in the past fifty years that a state had won a hat-trick of Shield titles: Queensland did so from 2000 to 2002 and Western Australia from 1987 to 1989. Prior to that, only New South Wales had ever managed as many as three consecutive titles: they had claimed a remarkable nine straight Shield titles from 1954 to 1962 and had also achieved six in succession from 1902 to 1907.
The fifth and final day began with Victoria on 6 for 254, already with a more than sufficient lead of 454, but needing only to draw to win the title the Bushrangers batted on until they were dismissed for 323. That meant a fanciful target of 524 for the Redbacks, who clearly could not win. But a Victorian victory seemed possible when James Pattinson struck twice in the first three overs.
However, South Australia captain Travis Head scored a defiant century to hold off the victory push, finishing unbeaten on 137 when he and Victoria’s stand-in leader, Cameron White, agreed to call off play. Fawad Ahmed – one of only three men to play in all three of Victoria’s hat-trick of final triumphs along with Rob Quiney and Daniel Christian – finished with 3 for 81.
Victoria spinner Jon Holland was named Player of the Match for his first-innings demolition of the Redbacks, in which he claimed 7 for 82. Holland also picked up one wicket in the second innings, which meant he joined Chuck Fleetwood-Smith, Stuart MacGill, Bill O’Reilly and Tony Lock as the only spinners to claim 50 wickets in a Shield season (not counting Colin Miller, who combined spin and pace).
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale
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