New South Wales tailenders have denied South Australia a win in their Sheffield Shield match at Adelaide Oval.
Stoic New South Wales tailenders have denied South Australia victory and ensured four states will scrap to reach this year’s Sheffield Shield final.
NSW’s last three batsmen – Steve O’Keefe, Josh Hazlewood and Doug Bollinger – survived the last 17 overs to force a draw with the Redbacks in Adelaide on Thursday.
Chasing 277 to win, the Blues finished 9-207, with SA captain Johan Botha taking 4-51.
The draw means SA, NSW and WA are locked on 26 points on the Shield table, with Queensland on 22 points.
With one round remaining, all four states can reach the final. And all but Queensland can still earning hosting rights.
From next Tuesday, NSW meet WA in Canberra, the Redbacks travel to play Tasmania and Victoria host Queensland.
SA will have to revive themselves after coming agonisingly close to securing a spot in their first Shield final in 18 years.
Since their 1995-96 win, the Redbacks have been easybeats – finishing last in nine of the past 17 seasons, including the past four.
But sparked by Botha’s four-wicket haul, they appeared set to secure their spot in the decider with some 70 minutes remaining of their clash against NSW.
The Blues were on the ropes at 8-173 with 17 overs remaining.
But for 50 tense minutes, O’Keefe and Hazlewood grimly defied SA, who perched most fielders within touching distance of the batsmen.
O’Keefe made 34 to cap a brilliant individual match – he took five wickets in the first innings and 6-70 in the second dig – but he was dismissed with five overs remaining.
In the next over, SA were convinced they had claimed the last wicket when Hazlewood appeared to nick to the wicketkeeper, only to be given not out.
And with just four balls remaining, SA again celebrated, believing Bollinger was caught at bat-pad, but their appeals were again rejected.
South Australian coach Darren Berry lamented falling just short of an outright win.
“We gave it everything we had,” he said.
NSW skipper Peter Nevill was relieved the Blues still have their fate in their own hands.
“We go into the game against Western Australia and we need to win to make the final, so I don’t think our approach is going to be any different than if we had of lost this game,” he said.
Nevill said the Blues expected Australian Test duo Steve Smith and Nathan Lyon to return to state ranks for next week’s fixture.