They may have used a remarkable 14 players in the match so far, but Victoria is incredibly still in with a chance of recording their first Marsh Sheffield Shield victory of the season entering the final day of their clash with NSW in Melbourne.
It was another bizarre day at Junction Oval that saw the hosts activate their third substitute in three days with Sam Elliott copping a blow to the grille from a Sean Abbott bouncer just before tea and was eventually ruled out with concussion about 90 minutes later.
In between he had progressed 26 not out from 63 balls as Victoria looked to set NSW a tricky fourth innings chase, putting on 75 runs for the eighth wicket with young gun Campbell Kellaway.
But at the end of the 95th over he asked the Victorian physio for a Panadol, with the umpires intervening and sending him from the ground for a Head Injury Assessment.
And while the HIA was still ongoing, No.11 Todd Murphy was trapped leg before to Mickey Edwards for nine, meaning Victoria were all out for 283 and setting NSW a target of 233 for their first win of the Sheffield Shield season.
The umpires concern eventually proved well founded a short time later with Elliott, who had last week hit 80no on debut against Tasmania, found to have concussion and was replaced in the XI by Jack Prestwidge to make his first-class debut.
A debut Jack Prestwidge will never forget. Earlier today he bowled 10 overs with a white ball in club cricket taking 2-55 for Melbourne, now he has just been congratulated for his first first-class match by Victorian skipper Peter Handscomb at the drinks break #SheffieldShield pic.twitter.com/6IpJNoo7Gj
— Jack Paynter (@jackpayn) December 3, 2022
It will be a debut Prestwidge won’t forget for a long time, only arriving at Junction Oval about an hour before stumps after rushing to the ground from Northcote where he had earlier sent down 10 overs with a white-ball for a return of 2-55 for his Premier Cricket club Melbourne.
The 26-year-old right-armer, who has played three Marsh One-Day Cup matches for Victoria this season, joins Matt Short and Ruwantha Kellapotha as the substitutes activated by the Vics this match, after Sam Harper and Jon Holland were subbed out with Covid.
Prestwidge’s club teammate, Kellaway, resurrected the Victorian second innings on day three in just his second Sheffield Shield match with a composed 81.
The 20-year-old Australian Under-19 representative arrived at the crease with Victoria 3-91, but that soon became 6-131 after skipper Peter Handscomb, Short and Will Sutherland all fell for single figures.
“It’s been crazy at times, there’s been blokes coming in, blokes coming out and I’m just trying to keep myself on the park,” Kellaway said post play on day three.
“Everyone who’s stepped up has played a role and everyone’s been ready to go and if required, they’ve done a job for the team, which has been awesome.
“I just tried to face as many balls as I could, keep batting with intent (and) it made it pretty simple, just bat long, bat deep and try to get as many runs on the board.”
Resuming day three at 1-78 with a 27-run lead, Ashley Chandrasinghe (26) and Handscomb (9) both fell early before Nic Maddison took the aggressive approach to try and hit his way out of a form slump.
The left-hander launched both Sean Abbott (1-61) and Chris Tremain (2-50) for two huge sixes back over their heads, one which ended up on the other side of the perimeter fence, in his 39-ball 40.
But he outmaneuvered himself trying to paddle sweep off-spinner Chris Green (2-27) to kickstart a collapse of 3-1 before lunch.
Wow, Nic Maddinson that is HUUUUUUUGE! 🤯#vicsdoitbetter pic.twitter.com/29g9vLdSSW
— Victorian Cricket Team (@VicStateCricket) December 3, 2022
Kellaway barely looked flustered in his 171 ball stay that included 13 boundaries as another club teammate, Fergus O’Neill, also chipped in with 25.
But cagey NSW veteran Moises Henriques (2-29) brought about his downfall after Kellaway had smacked him four a boundary with a fierce pull shot in front of square, throwing the next delivery a little bit wider that induced the young Victorian into a drive that he spooned to short cover.
Kellapotha was left unbeaten on five when Murphy was out and Elliott unable to resume his innings, but NSW will feel like they had dodged a bullet not to be chasing a bigger total for victory with Elliott showcasing his batting credentials with a fighting knock against Tasmania’s international quality attack of Jackson Bird, Peter Siddle and Nathan Ellis last week.
Aussie white-ball spinner Adam Zampa went wicketless in the second innings after taking 3-57 in the first in his first match bowling with a red ball in three years as he pushes his case for a Test call up in India next year.
Murphy posed plenty of questions for the NSW batters in the hour before stumps, claiming the wicket of Kurtis Patterson lbw for seven and Victoria will be hoping their young spinner can bowl them to victory on the final day on a pitch starting to play a few tricks.
Daniel Hughes (31no) and Jason Sangha (16no) took the visitors to 1-58 at stumps on day three needing 175 more runs to win, setting up a thrilling final day as both sides desperately searching for their first win of the Shield season.