The West End Redbacks will enter the Marsh Sheffield Shield break rueing missed chances, falling to Victoria by 23 runs at Adelaide Oval in their final fixture before the December and January Big Bash window.
A stunning debut first-class century to Jake Fraser-McGurk, a five-wicket haul to returning quick Wes Agar and a fighting 81 from national wicket-keeper Alex Carey were not enough for South Australia to claim victory in a thriller, their third tight Shield clash in succession.
When red ball cricket resumes in early February, the two sides will battle again, this time at Junction Oval, with the standings showing just eight points between first and fifth. Four Shield fixtures remain for the Redbacks, meaning the season is well and truly alive as the players switch four-day cricket for T20 action.
Sam Harper earned Player of the Match honours at Adelaide Oval on the strength of the second-quickest 150 in the competition’s long and storied history, while teammate Fergus O’Neill could consider himself slightly unlikely to miss out on the nod due to his maiden ten-wicket first-class return.
Beginning late on day one due to wild storms that lashed Adelaide overnight and through the morning, South Australia elected to bowl beneath overcast skies and the decision reaped immediate rewards.
Agar and Brendan Doggett were brilliant with the new ball, reducing Victoria to 5-67 in the early going, sending the international quality of Marcus Harris, Will Pucovski and Peter Handscomb all back to the sheds cheaply.
Harper then joined young gun Campbell Kellaway, and the two joined forces to rescue the innings with a sublime 154-run partnership, with the pair utilising vastly different but equally effective methods.
A remarkable 15 fours and nine sixes highlighted Harper’s 151 from just 104 balls, while Kellaway put a high price on his wicket to accrue 47 runs from 110 deliveries to anchor the effort. For the Redbacks, elation turned to heartache early in Harper’s innings when he was caught at slip off a no ball, a mistake that would return to haunt the home side as the Victorian wicketkeeper produced a knock that will live in Sheffield Shield history.
Agar finished with figures of 5-45 to continue his push for higher honours and Doggett collected four of his own in a clear reminder of how much talent and endurance the quick possesses.
Pursuing a first innings total of 278, South Australia started in an eerily similar manner to their east coast counterparts, losing their first five wickets for just 60 runs. Liam Scott and Fraser-McGurk then took inspiration from what they saw in Victoria’s knock, with Scott compiling a patient half-century while Fraser-McGurk cracker 12 boundaries on his way to a breakthrough first-class century.
Already the owner of the fastest white-ball century in history, a feat he achieved earlier this season at Karen Rolton Oval, Fraser-McGurk showed a more determined side to his game this week, combining with Scott to drag his adopted State back into the contest.
Ben Manenti chipped in with another half-century to add to a strong season to date with the bat, leaving South Australia with a deficit of just 26 after both teams had taken to the crease.
Early wickets fell again when Victoria returned to the middle, with the first three traded for 27 runs. Consisten partnership throughout the middle order got them back on track however, with Pucovski, Handscomb and Kellaway all contributing scores of over 40 in a low-scoring scrap.
Agar collected an additional three wickets, supported strongly by Nathan McAndrew’s four and another pair to Doggett.
Requiring 257 for another thrilling victory, South Australia looked to be in control as Carey all but secured the gloves for another Test summer, looking every bit himself as he hit ten boundaries in a knock of 81 from 116 deliveries.
Liam Scott was again solid in defence while partnership with the international gloveman, but when both set batters were dismissed, Victoria pounced on the opening and found a way through the lower order to claim the clash by 23 runs.