Marnus Labuschagne earlier scored a hundred with these two sides now all-but certain to meet again in the field
New South Wales 381 and 2 for 49 (Swepson 2-9) trail Queensland 433 (Labuschagne 112, Khawaja 64, Street 59, Peirson 59, Lyon 6-128) by 3 runs
Mitchell Swepson’s fierce spin brought a turgid Sheffield Shield encounter to fresh life on the third evening in Wollongong, as Western Australia’s first innings slide against Tasmania in Perth all but assured the Blues and the Bulls of meeting once again in the competition final.
Western Australia had needed to rattle near enough to 450 in 100 overs in order to claim the first innings points they needed to squeeze past New South Wales. But after they got nowhere near this tally, proceedings against Queensland took on something of a perfunctory air as the visitors climbed past the NSW total thanks to a century from Marnus Labuschagne and supporting hands from Usman Khawaja and Jimmy Peirson.
Nathan Lyon, twirling his way through no fewer than 48.2 overs, was rewarded with six victims to extend his lead on the wicket-taking aggregates for the Shield this season with 39 wickets in eight games. Lyon’s steadiness and accuracy underlined why he has been a fixture in the Australian Test team for nearly a decade now, but the exciting alternative offered by a quality legspinner was to be showcased when NSW batted again in the final hour.
Playing his first Shield game of 2021 after missing several months with a neck injury, Swepson had been somewhat short of his best in the first innings. But granted a generous helping of foot marks to use against the all left-handed NSW top three, he was rapidly into the fray for the eighth over.
Based on the length and width of Swepson’s third ball, Daniel Hughes had a right to rock back and think about cutting. However the vicious fizz and turn snapped back at nearly right angles to slice through Hughes’ hurried attempt to defend and rattled the stumps in a manner reminiscent of Shane Warne’s classic to Shivnarine Chanderpaul at the SCG in 1996.
A couple of subsequent deliveries to Kurtis Patterson and Matt Gilkes threatened to make a similar impact, missing the stumps by centimetres as they shouldered arms. Patterson needed medical attention at the other end as a Brendan Doggett bouncer struck him under the helmet grille, but was looking sturdy enough when he shaped up again to face Swepson.
This time a top spinner or wrong’un from Swepson did not spin back as Patterson expected, going past his bat and prompting a frenzied celebration from Queensland and, eventually, the raising of the umpire’s finger. Patterson looked aghast, seeming to think his bat had brushed his pad, but the wicket was a further reminder of the kinds of scenes a leg spinner can create.
Swepson, despite his injury, now has 27 Shield wickets in just four matches this season – only Lyon, Jackson Bird and Scott Boland are ahead of him.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig