Twin failures for Test hopeful Marcus Harris in his first red-ball match of the season have given an early advantage to rival opener Matthew Renshaw in what could prove an intriguing contest to replace David Warner when he takes off his baggy green for the final time this summer.
Having watched on as first Cameron Bancroft opened the Shield season with a century, then Renshaw followed against the Victorian bowlers in Mackay, Harris managed just a duck and 10 in his two innings as he returned to cricket after the birth of his first child.
With Warner having flagged his intention to retire from Test cricket after the three-match series against Pakistan, the door is wide open for the best performed opener to take his spot.
Warner labelled Harris, who toured with the Australians during the Ashes, as the man most likely but runs remain the greatest currency in cricket and he’ll have to wait for his next chance to impress with the Vics headed towards defeat after Queensland all-rounder Michael Neser starred with bat and ball.
Looking to add to his own two Test matches, Neser belted 13 boundaries including four sixes on his way to making 90 as he and Jack Clayton, who notched his second first-class hundred, put on 155 for the sixth wicket to put Victoria on the brink of an innings defeat.
In his last 10 first-class innings, Neser has made 696 runs at 87 with three centuries and three fifties, with no Australian averaging more over that period.
He appeared unaffected by his workload with the bat, taking only 12 balls to dismiss Travis Dean caught behind before Mark Steketee found the edges of Marcus Harris as wickets tumbled and the visitors were reeling at reeling at 5-85 and a long way behind the Bulls who declared their first innings closed at 9-501, having bowled out Victoria for 253 on the opening day.
Neser, 33, fell just short of what would have been in his fourth first-class century in four consecutive matches, after he made a match-saving 140 in Queensland’s Sheffield Shield opener off the back of a superb UK stint at Glamorgan.
IN Perth Tasmanian captain Jordan Silk pressed on against Western Australia to make a career-high 181, the biggest score of the Shield season so far, to put the Tigers in the box seat with a first innings score of 439.
Resuming day 2 on 99, Silk had to be patient before notching up his 11th first-class century, before he pressed on in heavily contrasting partnerships with Jarrod Freeman (30 off 14) and Lawrence Neil-Smith (23 off 82).
Test prospect Lance Morris was managed carefully with only 19 of the 135 overs, claiming 2-55 including the removal of in-form opener Caleb Jewell for a golden duck after catching his outside edge on day 1.
Silk said on Sunday night he hoped the pitch would break up as the game wore on, calling it uncharacteristically flat for a WACA deck.
“Hopefully (it gets) more difficult (for batters) as the game goes on. It’s a very different sort of WACA wicket to what we’re used to in the past. I don’t think I’ve seen that many fielders in front of square on a Day 1 wicket at the WACA,” he said.
“They are different conditions, hopefully from our point of view we see a bit of breaking up of that wicket and get our bowlers like (Jarrod) Freeman and our seamers into the game.”
South Australia’s quicks seized control on the second day of the Redbacks’ clash against NSW at the Adelaide Oval, reducing the Blues to 183 after posting 293 on the opening day.
Nathan McAndrew claimed a five-wicket haul while Wes Agar blasted through crucial Blues Kurtis Patterson (4) and Moises Henriques (0) to give his side the upper hand.
In-form all-rounder Jack Edwards shouldered arms to an off-cutter from McAndrew which clipped his off-stump, sparking jubilant celebrations from the Redbacks.
NSW quick Jack Nisbet showed some pluck with the bat on his Sheffield Shield debut, contributing an unbeaten 20 to a 56-run last wicket stand with Matthew Gilkes.
But the Redbacks quickly pushed their lead beyond 150 leaving the Blues, who haven’t tasted victory in a Shield match since February, 2022, facing an uphill battle to avoid another defeat.