I rise today to congratulate the South Australian first XI, commonly known as the Redbacks, on reaching the final of the Sheffield Shield this season. The Redbacks qualified for the final after outright victories in their last two matches against Western Australia and Tasmania, and were assisted by Western Australia beating Queensland outright in Brisbane in the final round. I congratulate the Marsh family for their assistance in that.
South Australia's victory by an innings and 78 runs over Tasmania in the final round within two days set up a dramatic final two days in Alice Springs, when Victoria and New South Wales were then fighting it out for a place in the decider. A New South Wales outright victory would have meant qualification and a home final for the Blues, whereas Victoria needed only a draw to qualify, but an outright win would mean a home final for the Bushrangers.
Needing 269 to win in the second innings, Victoria started day 4 of the four-day match in a poor position at 3-20. New South Wales remained on top until Scott Boland came to the crease at 7- 153, with former Victorian captain Cameron White unbeaten on 56. With a Victorian win almost impossible, these two dug in and fought for the draw. White ended up on 97 and tailender Scott Boland on 34 when the New South Wales captain conceded the draw. With this, South Australia finished on top by only half a point, which was enough to secure a home final.
South Australia has not featured in a Shield final for 20 years since the Jamie Siddons captained side won the competition with a draw against Western Australia in March/April 1996, after finishing atop the ladder that season, a very similar situation to 2016. I congratulate new captain Travis Head on a great 2015-16 season and on finishing top in his first full season as captain. It is an amazing feat considering how much South Australia has struggled at first-class level in recent years. He has led by example, topping the South Australian batting statistics with 699 runs at an average of 38.83, which included three 100s and a highest score of 192.
Two other young and promising batsmen, Jake Lehmann and Alex Ross, also had good years, showing good signs for South Australia's future. Lehmann, the son of the great Darren, was not far behind, with 609 runs, an average of 50.75, including three 100s and a highest score of 205, his maiden first-class century. Alex Ross, with 499 runs at an average of 31.18, could not quite manage a 100 this year, with a highest score of 92 not out, but his quality was recognised by the cricketing fraternity with the Bradman Young Cricketer of the year award on Allan Border Medal night.
Of course, we cannot forget the bowlers, who more often than not win you matches. Clearly, our bowlers were the difference this season, with our three strike bowlers in the top 10 Shield wicket takers this season. Joe Mennie was way out in front with an outstanding 48 wickets, an average of 19.68. Dan Worrall came in equal third on the table with 37 wickets, an average of 26.86, and finally Chadd Sayers took sixth position with 32 wickets, an average of 25.87 and best figures of 7-46. Sayers was rewarded for his consistent performance over the past few years with a call-up to the test squad that toured New Zealand last month. Let's hope the selectors show faith in him very soon.
I also hope that this is the beginning of a real revival of South Australian cricket. We have an extremely proud cricketing tradition in this state, but this has been tarnished somewhat by recent performances and policies. It seems that the changes the South Australian Cricket Association has been making recently are bearing fruit, and I wish them all the best with the implementation of the recommendations of the Zadow report. It will continue to be a difficult transition for many involved in top-level cricket in this state.
Due to the beginning of the AFL season, the final will be played at Glenelg Oval over five days, beginning this Saturday at 10.30am. I encourage everyone to attend. You should be treated to high-quality cricket, and the magnificent surroundings of Glenelg Oval are a great place to watch cricket, even more so since its recent upgrade. Tickets are only $10 for adults, $5 for concession card holders and children under 16 are free, as are members, and I am sure there are many in this place. What a wonderful way to spend Easter this year.
With that, I wish Travis Head and all the boys the best of luck. Let's hope that South Australia returns to its rightful place as the champions of Australian cricket.