A five-wicket haul to paceman Joel Paris should have ensured easy passage to victory for Western Australia, but some late drama has ensured tension remains in the topsy-turvy Sheffield Shield encounter with South Australia.
Chasing a modest victory target of 121 at the WACA Ground, a nervous WA reached 3-55 on Friday night after the needless run-out of captain Shaun Marsh left them at a perilous 3-39.
Cam Green and Hilton Cartwright will re-start on Saturday morning with a further 66 runs required, as a defiant century to South Australia opener Henry Hunt overshadowed twin failures for Ashes aspirants Travis Head (9 and 21) and Alex Carey (0 and 7).
Having hauled themselves back into the match at 1-212, the visitors lost their final nine wickets for 79 to be dismissed for 291.
WA’s chase became complicated after Daniel Worrall jagged back a beauty to knock over Cameron Bancroft, before Marsh was run out for 16 by a direct hit from Hunt, who decided there was still more he could offer his side.
Marsh was left shaking his head at batting partner Green, after the youngster squirted a shot to point and called him through.
“It was a pretty risky run if anything, it was hit straight to me,” Hunt said.
“Some days you get lucky. I don’t normally hit the stumps, so I guess a bit unlucky for Shaun.”
Hunt was disappointed his side had not been able to build a lead of 200-250.
“That would have put us right in the match, but who knows what can happen tomorrow. Cricket’s a funny game,” he said.
Hunt registered his his fourth Shield century, but the Redbacks’ resistance was quickly crushed after former Test all-rounder Cartwright’s decisive intervention with the old ball.
Paris claimed 5/63 from 28 overs, including the prized scalp of Hunt, and D’Arcy Short took three catches including a brilliant diving effort in the deep.
The WA players repeatedly pleaded for the umpires to change the first ball, but took a liking to the second one.
“It looked like a footy to be honest, very oval,” Paris said.
“The umpires actually agreed that the ball did look out of shape, but it still fit through the circle.
“Being able to take 10 wickets in a second innings, we haven’t done that too many times out here in the last couple of years.”
Hunt was gifted his 100th run thanks to a misfield from Sam Whiteman, but his previous 99 were hard-earned. His 245-ball 108 began on Thursday evening with South Australia 171 runs in arrears.
The Redbacks had wiped away that daunting deficit by early in the second session for the loss of just one wicket, as the WA bowlers laboured on a pitch that had become significantly more docile than the green top from the opening day.
Paris claimed the only wicket of the first session when he breached the defence of Jake Weatherald (44), but Hunt found a willing ally in former WA batter Jake Carder (68).
Marsh didn’t turn to the spin of Short until the 67th over and to the medium pace of Cartwright until the 73rd over. But it was Cartwright who found the double breakthrough, ending the 132-run stand between Hunt and Carder when Carder pulled a short ball straight to Short at deep square leg.
Head, who began his short innings of 21 fluently, fell victim to the same combination on 21 when he top-edged a pull before becoming the victim of some outstanding anticipation and athleticism from Short.
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