Ferguson was instrumental in bringing South Australia to within three overs of securing a fighting draw, digging in on the final day to end his first-class career with a classy knock of 97 from 195 deliveries. Despite falling heartbreakingly short of a fairy-tale century, the South Australian champion was a picture of pride as he departed the field for the last time, content in the knowledge he had once again given his all for the state.
Those efforts were matched by wicket-keeper Harry Nielsen on day four, who brought up his second first-class ton during the Redbacks' long vigil at the crease. Nielsen and Ferguson begun the final day in the middle and in total, would remain together for 423 deliveries while advancing the score by 218 runs.
When Ferguson and then Nielsen fell in quick succession, it was over to 19-year-old allrounder Liam Scott and veteran quick Chadd Sayers to resist the Queensland attack into the late-afternoon. Scott was again solid with the willow, but after 110 deliveries, the penultimate of which was a nasty knock to the head that required medical attention, he became Mark Steketee’s fourth victim of the innings.
Chadd Sayers was superb for the Redbacks, facing 122 deliveries for his 46, but a devastating two-over stint from Queensland leg-spinner Mitch Swepson proved to be a bridge too far for South Australia. With just three overs remaining in the contest, Swepson picked up Sayers, Wes Agar and Lloyd Pope within ten balls to seal the result for the visitors.
The clash started well for the Redbacks, who were asked to field when Queensland skipper Usman Khawaja won the toss. Sayers and Daniel Worrall combined well early to have the visitors 2/11 when Marnus Labuschagne edged one into the slip cordon, but from there the Bulls took the reins.
Khawaja notched his maiden century of the season on day one, and the following day he was joined in the feat by Matt Renshaw and Jimmy Peirson from the middle order. For the latter, it was a debut first-class ton, and it came at almost a run-a-ball to set his side up for a charge at the outright victory.
In response, the Redbacks were unable to fire a shot with the bat, as a middle order collapse saw their innings come to a close at just 154 runs. Swepson led the charge for the Bulls, claiming his third consecutive five-wicket haul. He was strongly supported by paceman Brendan Doggett who finished with figures of 3/20 from his 13 overs.
Within their rights to enforce the follow-on by way of being 342 runs ahead, the Bulls instead decided to have another swing of the bat. Chasing quick runs, they would declare at 3/105 to set the Redbacks an unlikely 448 for victory from five sessions.
It didn’t go to plan from the outset, as the first four wickets fell for 68 just passed the 30 over mark. It was then however, that Ferguson and Nielsen mounted a recovery effort that brought the Redbacks into contention for not just a draw, but a victory. They would fall 62 runs short of that victory, and three overs short of a draw, but South Australia showed plenty of fight in their retiring champion’s final game, something they can be proud of.
The Marsh Sheffield Shield now goes on hiatus as Big Bash cricket descends on summer. Dates and locations have not yet been decided for the second portion of the red ball season, but the Redbacks will return in 2021 looking to build on some encouraging individual performances in recent weeks.
They will do so without Callum Ferguson, who has now played his final first-class clash beneath the baggy red cap. A career that will be immortalised throughout South Australian sporting history, it is fitting that Ferg’s final four-day performance for his beloved state was a stoic, determined and silky-smooth knock that came when it was truly needed.
Well played, Ferg.
11 November 2020