The Sheffield Shield has kicked off for another season, with New South Wales the big winners in round one.
In a star-studded fixture at the Gabba, New South Wales just edged out Queensland for a well-fought five wicket victory.
Queensland was skittled on the first day for just 153, the unheralded Harry Conway taking a career best five for 17.
After Steve Smith departed for a duck, leaving the visitors reeling at three for 14 in reply, 153 may have seemed a long way away. Instead, it was the perfect time for Davey Warner to find some much-needed form and save the day.
Warner, along with Nick Bertus, managed to steady the ship as they put on 147 for the fourth wicket. When Warner was dismissed for 125, the Blues had reached 201. They eventually declared at nine for 288.
Queensland improved in their second innings to reach 268.
The impressive Conway took another five, leaving New South Wales a target of 134 for victory.
Queensland quick and Ashes tourist Michael Neser proceeded to give New South Wales a big scare, ripping apart their top order and having them in deep trouble at five for 51, until captain Peter Neville and opener Dan Hughes guided the Blues home for a well-deserved win.
Giving the match some extra spice was the number of current or aspiring Test players on show. There were some mixed results to say the least.
David Warner’s first innings hundred would have given him some much-needed confidence ahead of the Test summer. Unfortunately, his dismissal for a golden duck in the second would have had all the doubters reason to talk again.
Usman Khawaja, hoping to rejoin Warner in the Test team, looked good in his second innings knock of 26. His recent run of good form in the domestic one day tournament was undone by his inability to convert into a big score in the longer form.
Mitchell Starc, another Ashes tourist looking to push for a Test recall had an underwhelming performance with the ball, picking up just the solitary wicket for the match.
On a brighter note, Marnus Labuschagne continued on his merry half century scoring way, bagging another two here. This summer could be the making of the young man who took his chance so well in England when he replaced the injured Steve Smith. Australia will need Smith and Labuschagne at their eccentric best to paper over the obvious cracks elsewhere in the order.
In the other two games over the weekend, it was a tale of two draws.
Victoria and South Australia played out a farcical draw, where in only two innings over twelve hundred runs were scored for the loss of only twelve wickets.
With the captains unable or unwilling to come to agreement on a run chase, the game descended into a pointless amble as South Australia ground on and on against part time bowlers even to the point where international quick James Pattinson was bowling off spin for a time.
South Australian Tom Cooper amassed 271, a personal milestone to match Victorian Nic Maddinson’s 224, but perhaps the real victor was the lifeless Junction Oval pitch.
In Perth, Western Australia and Tasmania played out an infinitely more interesting draw that saw a result possible up until the final afternoon. Tasmanian quick Jackson Bird threatened to give the Tassies a late hope until Ashton Agar negotiated the last session and saw the West Australians to safety with an unbeaten 76.
Other notable performances were a welcome hundred to incumbent Test Captain Tim Paine, eight wickets to Jackson Bird and a quickfire 57 for short form specialist Marcus Stoinis.
On a side note, Mitch Marsh broke his hand punching a wall in the dressing room after being dismissed. Marsh will miss up to five weeks including at least the first Test.
David Perram is a former grade cricketer of no great distinction with a love of sport, music and politics. You can follow him on Twitter @laborgreens.
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