In just his second Sheffield Shield game, Tigers opener Tim Ward showed he belongs at the level as Tasmania played out a draw with Queensland at Karen Rolton Oval.
After scoring an eye-catching 144 (343) in the first innings, the 23-year-old doubled down on his good form with 81 (130) in an impressive player of the match performance.
Speaking to the media at the conclusion of play on day four, Ward highlighted the importance of building on his first innings platform.
“It’s good confirmation that it wasn’t just a fluke, the first one. It was good to knuckle down and give myself the belief,” he said.
“I think you do need to score. As much belief in your own ability you can have, you always need to prove it to yourself and everyone around you that you do have it in you.
“It’s a bit of a weight off the shoulders once you do that.
Though he received a nice boost in confidence, the Tigers rookie does admit that there was a hint of disappointment about not reaching the century mark again.
His second innings demise came at the left hand of Matt Kuhnemann, who hit the perfect patch of rough to negate the Tasmanian’s defence. For the second time in the match, the Queensland spinner claimed his scalp.
“You don’t really want to give your wicket away at all,” Ward added.
“I copped a good one out of the rough and it was my day over.
“If you’d told me I could back up a hundred with eighty, I’d take it every day.”
After conceeding 6d/500, the Bulls pilled on 5d/355 on the back of centuries to Bryce Street and Jimmy Peirson. Their declaration was made in the hope of being given a total to chase.
Despite the good showing by Ward, criticisms were levelled by Queensland captain Usman Khawaja for the conservative approach taken by Tasmania.
Tasked with setting a lead, Tasmania started their second innings in an attacking manner. The loss of opener Caleb Jewell with just six overs left on day three prompted a near halt in proceedings.
However, for the second time in the contest, Lawrence Neil-Smith (71* from 201) acted as a night watchman and shared the crease with Ward.
More Cricket News:
Batting to take time out of the match, the pair added 91 from 35 overs before the opener’s dismissal. Charlie Wakim (3 from 61) then put a stamp on his side’s intentions with an ultra-defensive knock.
With no result in sight and Tasmania content to rest on their lead, both sides shook hands with the score at 3/196 to signify a draw.
Though it does appear to be a negative approach to the game, if circumstances are accounted for, then it can be said that Tasmania’s tactics are instead rooted in realism.
With just 12 wickets falling for a combined score of 914 in three full days of play, the odds of taking 10 wickets on day four were clearly stacked against the Tigers.
No stranger to time spent on this particular pitch, Ward acknowledged that the surface was significantly more favourable to those weilding willow.
Ultimately, it was these playing conditions led to the decision to ‘shut up shop’, so to speak.
“We knew it was going to be tough taking 10 wickets in the final innings. The decision was made to go out there and keep batting and make sure we didn’t lose this one,” Ward told.
“It was made at the start of the day. We thought it was going to be too hard to take 10 wickets and it was just our job to go out there and take as much time out of the game as possible.
“The amount of runs to wickets proves that it was a batters dream.”
Moreover, such a decision could be looked at favourably upon a closer examination of Tasmania’s current setup.
At present, the side is without a head coach, with experienced mentors Ali de Winter and Greg Shipperd taking charge following Jeff Vaughan’s appointment as an Australian assistant.
Further challenges can be seen on field as well.
Injuries to frontline quicks Jackson Bird and Riley Meredith have compounded the absence of Nathan Ellis, who is currently fulfilling IPL duties with the Punjab Kings before staying on in the UAE with Australia as a reserve for the T20 World Cup.
In addition, Australian skipper Tim Paine remains sidelined following neck surgery and Matthew Wade is currently preparing for the T20 World Cup with the national side.
While the batting positions of Paine and Wade were covered in hindsight, what cannot be questioned is the fact that the side was seriously hamstrung by a lack of bowling depth and experience.
Criticism of the need to use a nightwatchman for a second time is fair, given that batters like the aforementioned Wakim and Mac Wright might have benefitted from time at the crease to play freely.
Dismissing such a decision of a young side trying to find their way, whilst going through structural changes is not though.
In past seasons, the Tigers have shown a propensity to lack composure in games where victory is presented to them. For evidence, look no further than last seasons’ disastrous loss to New South Wales after bowling the Blues out for 64 in the first innings.
Allowing a reigning champion Queensland side the slightest opportunity to take a majority of points might have heralded a similar result.
Choosing to bat for a draw did lead to a lacklustre end to a game full of impressive batting displays, that is true. In future, Tasmania’s next coach will have to work hard to instill a culture of attacking, positive cricket.
For now though, the maturity and composure shown by stand-in captain Beau Webster and his charges should be applauded, rather than subject to criticism.
Subscribe to our newsletter!