Events in Perth eased the pressure a little on the two sides but it was keenly contested day with Jason Sangha making a century
Queensland 2 for 184 (Labuschagne 81*, Street 59, Lyon 2-52) trail New South Wales 381 (Sangha 103, Hughes 74, Gilkes 66, Doggett 4-79) by 197 runs
If Tasmania’s gargantuan first innings tally in Perth against Western Australia took some of the heat out of the battle between Queensland and New South Wales in the last round before the Sheffield Shield final, there was still plenty of sizzle to a string of individual duels across a willingly fought second day in Wollongong.
Marnus Labuschagne and Usman Khawaja were in occupation for the Bulls at the close, having both evaded their shares of nervy moments, particularly against some fiery spells from Mitchell Starc. Nathan Lyon, finding some appreciable turn at times, was also a handful and the bowler responsible for claiming both wickets to fall thus far.
After Jason Sangha reached a deserved third first-class century, the Blues’ hopes of piling on a total beyond 400 were undone by the speed of Brendan Doggett and a flurry of shots that seemed to indicate the hosts felt they had enough runs.
Both Sangha and Lachlan Hearne, author of an accomplished half century on his Shield debut, drove expansively at wide deliveries and were athletically caught by Khawaja and Matt Renshaw respectively.
Runs and wickets then accrued in a hectic passage that saw the final five wickets of the innings go down for 36 as Baxter Holt helped himself to a useful 29, ended only when he skewed Mitchell Swepson’s leg break to Labuschagne, who avoided a stumble and then discarded the ball in the haphazard manner once favoured by Herschelle Gibbs.
Bryce Street and Joe Burns got through the early overs with the new ball, only for the former Test opener to snick Lyon behind when trying to force through the off side on the back foot.
Some stodgy passages followed as Labuschagne and Street sought to build a platform and absorb the freshest spells of the bowlers, who were all quite economical with the exception of Liam Hatcher.
Runs began to flow a little more freely when Starc delivered a second spell of considerable speed after tea, demonstrating a return to the higher, more traditional load-up with his left arm that he abandoned in late 2019 in search of greater control. Street was clanged on the helmet by a bouncer, before Labuschagne edged wide of the slips and then next ball straight to Trent Copeland at first, who dropped it and also hurt a finger. Both balls went to the boundary.
Street freed his arms against Hatcher and was starting to motor until Lyon moved over the wicket and coaxed a top edged sweep that Starc held expertly at deep backward square leg.
This left Khawaja to navigate the day’s last 11 overs with Labuschagne, and he too came close to being dismissed by Starc, jamming a short ball off bat and body up into the air and then perilously close to the stumps as it landed: Khawaja’s relief at the end of the over was tangible.
Nevertheless, Khawaja and Labuschagne made it to stumps, with the hope of stretching their union on Easter Monday and setting up a fourth innings chase.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig