New South Wales 224 (Davies 81*, Henriques 54, Neil-Smith 7-58) and 118 (Bell 5-26, Neil-Smith 3-46) beat Tasmania 200 (Owen 70) and 68 (Tremain 6-30, Bird 4-22) by 74 runs
On an action-packed third day, 24 wickets fell after play had resumed with the visitors’ first innings still in action. Tasmania drew within 24 runs of NSW’s total then the home side collapsed to lose 9 for 55 (and 7 for 19) leaving a target of 143.
That quickly grew to significant proportions on a surface providing variable bounce and significant seam movement for the quicks. Bird, against his former team, and Tremain reduced Tasmania to 12 for 3 then returned to halt a recovery and blast through the middle and lower order, taking all 10 wickets between them to give NSW their second win of the season.
Perhaps unsurprisingly there were contrasting views on the pitch which used a new type of grass the SCG is trying this season which encourages greater growth.
“I’m definitely going to go into bat for the groundsman,” Tremain told ESPNcricinfo. “Ask the batsmen, they’ll tell you something different. They were at the mercy of the weather leading into the game so don’t think the pitch was underprepared. Over the first two innings it created quite a few divots as it was a little soft on top with that good grass cover.
“When those divots harden up they get a little bit sporting. The crack played a lot of a part in things this afternoon, but don’t think that wicket was poorly prepared. In the balance of bat versus ball obviously ball was the winner, but I wouldn’t be too quick to hang the groundsman out to dry.”
“I’ve played quite a lot Shield cricket and can’t say I’ve played on a wicket quite like that where the ball was nipping around a lot, there were cracks on lines and it was snaky,” he told ESPNcricinfo. “You had not just the sideways movement but you had a few balls climbing up then some climbing down.
“Think you can cop a bit of wear and tear over the course of a game, but when there’s been 40 wickets in 160 overs of cricket you probably think it’s a bit too heavily weighted towards the bowlers. And that’s coming from someone who is really keen on having some sporting wickets, but it was slightly too far towards the bowling side.”
There were some unplayable deliveries among the wickets on the third day, not least Bird’s wicked ball to seam past Caleb Jewell’s bat from around leg stump and take the top of off at the start of Tasmania’s chase.
Tremain, who took 5 for 35 in his previous SCG outing against Western Australia, then had Charlie Wakim caught at slip and followed that by nipping one back through Silk to leave himself on a hat-trick.
That was not forthcoming, and for a while either side of tea Tasmania made positive progress as Jake Doran took an aggressive route which included cutting Nathan Lyon’s first deliveries through the off side.
But Bird produced another cracking delivery to nick Doran’s off bail after the runs required had been brought below 90. Beau Webster has been one of the form players of the season and early indications were that he was going to take the game on as he pulled his first ball through midwicket, but in the next over he went too far across against Tremain and was lbw.
There was no stopping Tremain as he ended Tim Ward’s hard-working stay with an edge to the keeper then castled Mitchell Owen, who had been unbeaten on 70 in the first innings at the start of the day, and Jarrod Freeman, with batters regularly left starring down at the pitch.
With a narrow lead under their belt, NSW had started positively and reached 30 in the fifth over before Bell broke through, and at 63 for 1 there was no imminent sign of the carnage to come.
Bell had left the field midway through his sixth over with a groin strain. However, during lunch he went through a fitness test and told Silk he was “about 80%”. Ryan Hackney and Jason Sangha had been dismissed in consecutive overs, but Moises Henriques and debutant Sam Konstas battled through 11 overs to start another partnership.
Then the clatter started. Henriques was caught at slip off Neil-Smith and Konstas fell to the last ball before a rain delay. Ollie Davies, batting with a fractured finger, edged behind three deliveries after the resumption and the rest went quickly.
But both sides knew 143 was going to be tough. “Mo [Henriques] said before we went out that 120 was par,” Tremain said. “Don’t know if that was bravado or he was serious. He was probably serious, he’s a very serious character. We had a bit of confidence knowing anything can happen, and anything did happen.”
Tasmania bat very deep and Silk backed them to get over the line, but the reality was different. However, he refused to be too downhearted with the team still having a chance of topping the Sheffield Shield table at the BBL break and three home games to come when it resumes in February.
“We knew it was going to be difficult,” he said. “There was a lot of belief that we could chase 140 but we knew it would take a group effort to get it done. Against high-class bowling in Bird and Tremain in conditions that are favourable to them, you have to bring your best and unfortunately it wasn’t good enough to keep out their good stuff.
“I’m really proud of how this group have gone about the first six games. Probably a lot of people will be speaking about who we are playing, but we have a lot of belief within those four walls that we are a good enough team to mix it with a lot of sides. One bad week won’t our thinking.”
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo
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