Some swashbuckling batting by Nathan Coulter-Nile and Sam Whiteman today steered the Western Warriors to crucial first-innings points on Day 2 of their Sheffield Shield clash with the Tasmania Tigers at the WACA Ground.
Openers Mark Cosgrove and Cowan looked set to play out the day, before Day 1 menace Michael Hogan struck twice in one over, with the former gone for 48 with an edge to slip and his replacement Jon Wells out two balls later LBW for a duck.
The first innings points were important for third-placed WA as it fights to stay within reach of next week’s opponent and second-placed New South Wales Blues.
WA resumed on 1-59 and were buoyant heading back to the crease, but fortunes began to sway as several middle-order wickets were lost cheaply.
WA was 7-208 and still trailing Tasmania by 40 when Coulter-Nile and Whiteman came together at 3:39pm, but by a little after 4pm, they had guided their team to a lead.
Coulter-Nile was the first of the pair to depart, going for 34 to have WA 8-268, and those at the Ground could have been forgiven for thinking they were re-living last week’s Big Bash League title, with the tally coming off just 18 balls, with four fours and two sixes.
The partnership had built to 60 from 46 balls in less than half an hour by the time it was broken and Whiteman continued the damage, finding his feet before blasting away to 55 off 50 balls, with eight fours and two sixes.
The Warriors were all out for 279 and with a lead of 31 when Whiteman attempted another loft down the ground, but skied to Xavier Doherty at wide mid-off off Ben Hilfenhaus.
It was the Tigers paceman’s sixth wicket of the innings in an outstanding bowling effort to have him finish the day with figures of 6-82, with five maidens, from 23.3 overs.
In fact, any WA batsman who posed a threat, Hilfenhaus could be credited for their dismissal, from competition leading run scorer Marcus North, to top-order batsman Marcus Harris, skipper Adam Voges, to Whiteman and Coulter-Nile.
Michael Beer and North resumed and Tasmania did not have to wait long for its first breakthrough of the day, with nightwatchman Beer bowled for two six minutes into play without playing a shot to Luke Butterworth.
However, Beer had done the job he was sent in to do, surviving the final three overs of Day 1.
North brought up his 50 with a shot that contained at least a little bit of luck as he attempted to block and took an inside edge that had the ball just miss leg stump.
It took a little less than an hour for the Tigers to make further inroads as young top-order batsman Marcus Harris departed for 20 after he attempted a pull shot off Andrew Fekete, but caught a top edge that was received by mid-on.
That dismissal teamed former skipper North with current skipper Adam Voges and the pair settled in quickly. Voges looked confident in his shots and loomed as a danger man to Tasmania, before Hilfenhaus struck in the 49th over, delivering a good length ball that the batsman prodded at, edging a catch to Butterworth at second slip for 18.
It brought in Mitch Marsh, who played his part well, allowing North to continue building another well-crafted innings. The pair batted out the four overs to lunch and entered the break with North 70 not out and Marsh yet to score – with WA 4-129 – and looked cemented on the resumption of play.
However, as a single to North brought up the unnerving 87, superstition played its hand and the senior batsman hooked Hilfenhaus to be caught by Sam Rainbird at deep fine leg.
It ended another tremendous stand from North of 274min and 199 balls, with 14 fours, and took his Shield total to a competition-leading 767 runs for the season.
The second of Hilfenhaus’ wickets also broke what was shaping as an imposing partnership, ending a 46-run stand that had lasted 87 minutes and 127 balls.
A pair of tyros then came together, as Ashton Turner joined Marsh, with WA still trailing Tasmania’s first innings by 75 runs.
Marsh settled, but fell a short time after his new partner joined him, caught by Butterworth at slips playing a flat-footed defensive shot off Doherty.
It was WA’s turn to search for a lasting partnership at 6-183, as promising wicketkeeper Whiteman headed to the middle and that quest was finally found when Turner fell for 13 to Hilfenhaus and Coulter-Nile entered the game to help steer towards first innings points.
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James was the full-time Media Manager at Yorkshire County Cricket Club between 2007 and 2010.
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