Twin tons from Ashton Agar and Josh Inglis headlined the opening to the second day of the Marsh Sheffield Shield clash between the Redbacks and Western Australia, but opening pair Jake Weatherald and Henry Hunt launched the fightback when they were invited to take the crease. Registering a hard-fought milestone of his own late in the day, Weatherald is set to resume tomorrow with the intention of bringing his side increasingly closer to the Western Australia first innings total.
Wickets were at a premium at Karen Rolton Oval today, with just one falling across three sessions of play. Fans enjoying the view from the shade beneath the healthy spring trees on the northern hill were treated to some fireworks in the middle session as Western Australia looked to lift the run rate before an aggressive declaration.
Still delicately placed thanks to a fighting performance with the willow from the Redbacks, the Shield opener has skewed towards the batsmen so far and the third day is likely to determine who will take the honours.
Play began on day two with the Redbacks searching for a way into the West Australian tail, but Ashton Agar and Josh Inglis proved to be immovable throughout the opening session.
After seeing off the opening pair of Chadd Sayers and Nick Winter, Agar and Inglis began to put the foot down in the quest for quick runs, and as the lunch break drew near, so too did the three-figure milestone for both batsmen.
Inglis brought his maiden first-class ton up with a boundary through backward point before, remarkably, Agar hit a boundary of his own just two balls later to tick his own tally past 100.
The duo’s dominant performance ensured that with just four sessions in the books, Western Australia held the upper hand in the Shield opener.
Duty of care
The 122nd over was an extremely eventful one for Agar, and not only because it began with a pull shot to bring up his third first-class century. The third ball of the over from left-arm quick Winters was a short one that jumped off the deck and rocked Agar as he turned to avoid it.
Appearing to strike the 26-year-old allrounder on the back of the helmet, it was a scary moment that gave insight into the changing nature of cricket in recent years.
Players and umpires immediately switched their focus to the health and wellbeing of Agar, with support staff quickly ushered on-field. A lengthy delay followed as Agar’s helmet was changed while a doctor ran through the required tests before play could resume.
Thankfully, Agar was able to continue his innings after displaying no ill-effects. The incident was a great example of the player safety protocols in place and the shifting mindset of those engaged within the contest, with the wellbeing of all involved now well and truly paramount.
A determined opening
A declaration from the visitors early into the second session shifted the pressure to Redbacks openers Jake Weatherald and Henry Hunt. Charged with the task of leading the response, it was vital the pair started well and resisted the fresh Western Australian arms of Paris, Kelly and Gannon.
Weatherald and Hunt spent the offseason working hard as a pair, regularly putting in extras in the nets as they set their sights on a resolute opening partnership in 2020. Early signs indicate that their efforts have yielded rewards, with the two facing 21 overs through to tea while compiling 64 runs at over three an over.
Both forced the bowlers to come to them, consistently allowing balls wide of off-stump through to the keeper, but took full advantage of anything over-pitched.
Playing with a clear understanding of the gravitas of the moment, Weatherald and Hunt delivered a 125-run stand for the Redbacks, no doubt instilling their teammates with confidence for the days ahead.
Following the dismissal of his opening partner, Weatherald remained unfazed by the Western Australian attempts to remove him and continued to accumulate the runs. A steely determination to perform from the outset of the season with evident and after more than 150 balls of laser focus, he was rewarded with the seventh first-class century of his career.
All the more impressive a performance given how vitally his side needed it, Weatherald was elated when he middled a ball around the corner for the boundary that brought up three figures. With plenty more work to be done for the Redbacks, you can be certain that the opener has his sights set on plenty more runs when play resumes on day three.