Shield decider finely poised
TASMANIA and NSW remain locked in a tense battle for the Sheffield Shield after two days of the final at Bellerive Oval.
The Tigers finished yesterday at 3-160, a long way behind the Blues’ formidable first innings score of 440.
Former New South Welshman Ed Cowan was unbeaten on 80 with the competition’s leading run scorer Mark Cosgrove on 19.
Cowan survived the pace of 17-year-ol d t earaway Pat Cummins ( 1-50) and the discipline of t he metronomic Trent Copeland ( 2-52) t o anchor the Tigers innings.
Things got off to a poor start for the hosts when the in-form Nick Kruger was adjudged lbw to Cummins for just one.
But Alex Doolan steadied the ship, and with Cowan he compiled 46 runs before being tempted by a Copeland delivery outside off stump.
A dour struggle ensued between the Blues quicks and Cowan and George Bailey, with just 28 runs scored in the hour after tea.
Bailey eventually ran out of patience and was caught behind off Copeland for nine, but Cowan was resolute and e d g e d c l o s e r t o a wel l - deserved century.
H e s a i d t h e m o r n i n g session today would be crucial in the context of the match.
’’( It’s) huge ... if we can get to lunch unscathed, we’ll go a long way to opening up this game,’’ Cowan said.
‘‘ We can get back in this game and make all three results a possibility.’’
Cowan said it was pleasing to score runs against former teammates.
‘‘ Absolutely, I’ve been copping an absolute earful out there,’’ he said.
‘‘ If you need any extra motivation in a Shield final, then that’d be it.’’
Earl i e r y e s t e r d a y , b i g - hitting from Ben Rohrer ( 64 not out) and the Blues tail helped push their score past 400.
B e n H i l f e n h a u s , w h o s t r u g g l e d o n T h u r s d a y a g a i n s t t h e B l u e s ’ l e f t - handers, looked a different man with the new ball and took two wickets in the morning session.
H i l f e n h a u s h a d P e t e r Nevill ( four) out to a juggling Mark Cosgrove catch at second slip and had Stephen O’Keefe ( seven) edging a lifting delivery to Bailey.
Rohrer and Copeland then went on the attack, combining for a 66-run partnership for the ninth wicket.
The former was particularly brutal, slapping Luke Butterworth for four over mid-wicket to bring up his half century, then hitting a six to the same area the very next ball.
Tasmania need only draw the final to win the Shield.