Coach Darren Berry can’t quite fathom that long-suffering South Australia’s quest for the Sheffield Shield could come down to pink balls.
Berry’s troops were denied top spot on the Shield table on Sunday by some stoic Victorian middle-order batsmen.
The Redbacks couldn’t muster the final-day firepower to scuttle Victoria despite dominating the drawn Adelaide Oval encounter.
The Bushrangers lost just five wickets on Sunday to prevent a fifth consecutive Shield loss, finishing at 7-334, some 132 runs ahead, with Matthew Wade (71 not out) leading the resistance.
But SA banked innings points, moving to 26 points on the Shield table – the same as Western Australia, who take top spot courtesy of superior run quotient – but the 0.02 difference amounts to one wicket.
NSW (24 points) remain in the hunt to reach the final, with Queensland and Tasmania – both on 16 points – needing outright wins in the last two rounds.
The Redbacks host NSW from March 3 in an experimental second-last round – all games will be day-night fixtures with pink balls and black sightscreens.
Berry says such a trial is justified – just not at such a crucial stage of the season.
“All teams have got the same situation and whoever adapts best … but, yeah, round nine in Shield cricket – interesting timing,” he said.
“If we’re going to experiment with anything, do it earlier rather than late.
“But both teams have got to do it.
“What we are going to get, I can’t tell you … it is unknown. No one really knows.”
SA haven’t reached a Shield final since their 1995-96 triumph. In fact, they have finished bottom in nine of the 17 seasons since, including the past four.
And not only will pink balls help decide their fate – even if the Redbacks top the ladder, they’re unlikely to host the final at Adelaide Oval.
To herald the completion of a $530 million redevelopment of the oval, The Rolling Stones are booked for a concert there on March 22 – the scheduled second day of the Shield final.
The Redback’s final chance to qualify will come in an away game in Hobart against Tasmania on March 11.
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