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Silverware Imminent for Roaring Redbacks

A dominant performance in the JLT One-Day Cup elimination final against arch-rival Victoria secured the Redbacks a spot in the competition’s final. While the Redbacks were undone in the final by the form team in the competition, Western Australia, silverware looms for Travis Head and his maturing group.

South Australia’s Cup campaign kicked off in late September when a lost coin toss meant interim captain Callum Ferguson and his side would be batting on a fresh wicket at Allan Border Field in Brisbane against a youthful CA XI side. With overcast conditions and an early start time, the top-order could be forgiven for an early collapse. Last year’s one-day player of the year Cameron Valente led the resurgence for the Redbacks at 5/51, recording his second List A century. But it wasn’t enough. A first-round defeat.

 

Cameron Valente of SA celebrates his century during the JLT One Day Cup match between South Australia and the Cricket Australia XI at Allan Border Field in September.

SA’s batting depth was again tested against Queensland after an early fall of wickets had the Redbacks on the ropes at 5/99. Experienced Tom Cooper’s ninth List A century and career-best figures for paceman Joe Mennie (5/36) led the resurgence and secured an emphatic 83-run win against the home team. Things were looking up.

Despite much hype surrounding paceman Mitchell Starc’s competitive return from injury, the Redbacks were out to spoil the party when they travelled to Sydney for the tournament’s second leg. Jake Weatherald and Alex Ross plundered centuries, giving the Blues an imposing 6/345 to chase. Ross equalled the most runs scored in an over by a batsman in Australia when he thumped Test off-spinner Nathan Lyon for 32 all around the small Hurstville Oval. Only South African master AB De Villiers has also achieved the feat. The Redbacks secured a 45-run win, their second in a row. Belief was building.

By the halfway point of the tournament it became clear the Redbacks performed best when batting first. However, when Ferguson won the toss against his Tasmanian counterpart George Bailey at North Sydney Oval, he chose to bowl on an overcast morning. The clouds cleared much to the dismay of the toiling SA bowlers and Tasmania’s 6/315 proved too steep a challenge. Another hurdle.

Enter Jake Lehmann. The skilful left-hander came to the crease against Victoria with SA in a commanding position at 5/271 after 44.2 overs and with a licence to unleash.
Much to the dismay of Victorian captain Peter Handscomb, who persisted with a vacant fine-leg boundary, that’s exactly what happened. Lehmann ramped and paddled his way to the third-fastest 50 in domestic one-day history, finishing on an unbeaten 63 off 25. The Redbacks rose again.

Jake Lehmann of the Redbacks bats during the JLT One Day Cup match against Victoria at North Sydney Oval on October 12, 2017.

It was Ferguson who executed a timeless knock at Drummoyne Oval which saw the Redbacks steal the show against a red-hot Western Warriors unit. Despite a 245-run partnership between Michael Klinger and Mitchell Marsh, Ferguson’s highest List A score of 169 secured the points and the Redbacks a spot in the elimination final. Off to Hobart.

The elimination final was one of the most complete performances from a Redbacks unit in recent years. A 212-run opening stand between openers Weatherald (116) and Alex Carey (92), just five behind the all-time record held by Darren Lehmann and Paul Nobes, established the perfect platform. Cooper then equalled the performance of Lehmann from a week earlier – blasting his way to a half-century from 22 balls – to set the Bushrangers a daunting 5/339 to chase. They were never in the contest, as Daniel Worrall’s maiden domestic five-wicket haul skittled his opponents for just 168. The big dance beckoned.

Captain Travis Head said a day before the final his team’s form heading in was the best he’d seen in his time at the helm. But in the final at Blundstone Arena, WA had the Redbacks on the back foot early at 2/21 and they could never quite recover, posting a meek 248 for a deadly batting unit to chase. While the Redbacks were defeated in their fourth final in three seasons – this time by six wickets – Head’s words ring true and, with he and a number of his team-mates touted as Ashes prospects, the time is coming. Silverware is imminent.