Paris burst gives WA the upper hand in Shield final


Whiteman, Paris push WA ahead in see-sawing contest

An inspired spell from Joel Paris has given Western Australia the ascendency over Victoria after three days of the Marsh Sheffield Shield final at the WACA.

With both sides locked in a fascinating battle for first innings bonus points at lunch on day three after Peter Handscomb and nightwatchman Mitch Perry batted through almost the entire morning session, Paris turned the momentum and had the hosts in front by the middle of the afternoon.

The fired-up left-armer took 2-34 during a superb spell of fast bowling in the hour after the first break, removing the dangerous Nic Maddinson (20) and allrounder Jono Merlo, as WA grabbed the bonus points advantage.

Paris gives WA bonus points advantage with superb spell

Western Australia earned 1.67 points to Victoria’s 1.44 after 100 overs of each team’s first innings, meaning if the decider ends in a draw after five days the hosts would be crowned Sheffield Shield champions for the first time in more than two decades.

It also gives Western Australia the luxury of batting Victoria out of the game knowing they don’t have to try and force a result, but coach Adam Voges said prior to the match they wanted to win the game outright and believed conditions would produce a result.

Paris said while they had the bonus points advantage in the back of their mind, they still wanted to win the game outright.

“There’s still a lot of time in the game … we made sure we pushed as hard as possible in the middle session to make it as hard as possible for them to get near that (bonus points target),” he told cricket.com.au after stumps.

“Having secured that now, we still want to win this game outright, absolutely. There’s still two days to play, a lot of cricket left, so that’s out number one aim.”

Sam Whiteman (45 not out) and 17-year-old Teague Wyllie (15 not out) had extended WA’s lead to 171 by stumps on day three with seven wickets remaining, with the hosts 3-91 after bowling the Vics out for 306.

It was the perfect start for Victoria in WA’s second innings when Ashes hero Scott Boland (2-14 from 10 overs) removed opening day centurion Cameron Bancroft for a duck in the first over, while Matt Short (1-18) dismissed Shaun Marsh (13) for the second time in the match.

Should that be Marsh’s final first-class innings – with the 38-year-old yet to make a call on his playing future for WA – he would end his career with 12,015 runs and 32 centuries, including six in Test matches for Australia.

Boland again delivered the visitors a much-needed breakthrough half an hour before stumps, with Hilton Cartwright (12) edging to Short at first slip to end a 41-run partnership with Whiteman.

Victoria looked in a strong position to claim the bonus points advantage with Handscomb and Perry adding 111 runs for the fourth wicket with relative ease during the morning session.

But it was the wicket of the Victorian skipper in the final over before lunch that would also prove decisive as he edged a half volley from Aaron Hardie (3-54) through to wicketkeeper Josh Philippe on 80.

Maddinson played an entertaining 12-ball knock straight after lunch, edging his first ball to the third man boundary, his second bounced just short of Shaun Marsh at first slip and his third was crunched through backward point for four.

He hit another two fours to the same region with all his runs coming in boundaries before his luck ran out, edging a beautiful away swinger from Paris that carried to Marsh at slip.

Paris (3-95) removed Jono Merlo for 10 eight overs later as Victoria bowed out of the bonus points race. But the wickets kept tumbling as they slipped from 5-278 to 306 all out.

Speedster Lance Morris (2-67) did the late-order damage, removing Sam Harper (6) and the dogged Perry (74) before off-spinner Corey Rocchiccioli (2-24) cleaned up the tail.

It was the in-form Perry’s maiden first-class half century, surpassing his previous best of 35, and it comes after his match-winning 32 not out against Tasmania last month to book Victoria’s place in the Shield final.

Victorian captain Handscomb said after stumps they were definitely going for the bonus points, but when Merlo was dismissed in the 99th over that’s when they called it off.

“Our thought process was just to try to get the bonus point in the 100th over, that way we could take minimal risk up to that stage and then if it was one big over, it was one big over, unfortunately it didn’t quite work out,” he told cricket.com.au.

“It was just over six an over when we were getting close, so the natural scoring rate of our innings was about 2.9, so we’re asking the batters to go at double what the natural scoring rate was, which is always going to be tough, and then obviously if you lose a wicket it goes up by another 10 runs.

“We thought we were in a position to get the bonus point because you saw how we came out after the break with Maddo (Maddinson) and Mitch (Perry) going for some shots.

“We would have loved to have got that because then that helps us set up the game, but if we bowl well tomorrow hopefully that bonus point doesn’t come into play.

“If we can get going with our batting, hopefully we can chase anything, but first and foremost, we’ve got to get these next seven wickets.”

Earlier, Handscomb and Perry continued to bat the visitors back into the contest as Western Australia started the day with a barrage of short pitch bowling, with Morris operating around the wicket into the ribs of the Vics skipper.

But they persisted with the tactic for only a few overs as four leg byes and a couple of Handscomb boundaries to fine leg, including a crisp pull shot to bring up his 45th first-class half century, ensured Victoria were able to move the score along.

The 30-year-old fell three short of his 700th run for the Shield season but his 697 at 49.78 is 96 more than Henry Hunt, the second most prolific batter in the competition this summer.

Perry looked extremely comfortable throughout his 168-ball innings, hitting 13 fours and staking a claim for allrounder status with a beautiful straight drive off Matt Kelly and an upper cut over gully off Morris.

The 24-year-old quick eventually brought him undone when he flicked a rising delivery off his hip to where WA skipper Marsh had Paris beautifully positioned at leg slip.

With just two days to go, Western Australia appear well placed to take out this year’s title, which would be their first since 1998-99, while Victoria is looking to win their fifth Shield title in the past eight seasons.

The Marsh Sheffield Shield final will be broadcast live on Fox Cricket and Kayo Sports, as well as streamed free on cricket.com.au and the CA Live app