Will Pucovski fifty helps Victoria build commanding lead on stop-start day

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Mar
30

Stumps Victoria 289 and 7 for 207 (Pucovski 51, White 36, Abbott 3-75, Conway 2-31) lead New South Wales 121 by 375 runs

Victoria battled their way to a commanding lead over a doughty New South Wales bowling attack on day three of the Sheffield Shield final at a chilly and rainswept Junction Oval in Melbourne.

No Victorian batsman managed to top Will Pucovski‘s 51, which itself included a dropped chance, but the yawning gap created by the destruction of the Blues’ first innings on day two continued to widen all along despite some strong spells from pacers Sean Abbott and Harry Conway and a negative one by the spinner Steve O’Keefe.

Resuming after the first of several rain delays at 1 for 48 following the loss of Marcus Harris to Abbott late on the second evening, the Victorians soon lost their captain Travis Dean, judged to have been pinned lbw by an Abbott delivery that seamed back sharply to beat the bat and may just have shaved leg stump.

O’Keefe bowled many of his overs with a constricting line outside the leg stump from over the wicket, seldom gaining enough turn to threaten the stumps. But his intent was clearly to support the fast bowlers as they rotated from the Pavilion End.

NSW needed more wickets in quick succession to give themselves a chance of restricting the Victorian lead, but after Pucovski was dropped in the slips when trying to force a cut shot, wicketkeeper Seb Gotch and he were able to put together a pesky stand that endured well into the afternoon.

Pucovski reached his half-century from 86 balls, but after Conway seamed one back to have Gotch lbw for 20, Abbott won another lbw verdict as Pucovski fell across his crease while trying to flick to the leg side.

Two more wickets fell in quick succession after another rain delay, Cameron White attempting to sweep O’Keefe from around the wicket and being struck in line with the stumps, before Conway earned another lbw by trapping Matt Short. The 13 lbw decisions for the match so far are already the most in a Shield final.

The dismissals opened up the Victorian tail, and Chris Tremain fell to Trent Copeland with the second new ball before bad light brought the close, but with the lead already beyond 350, the visitors have a steep task ahead if they are to overturn the seemingly decisive proceedings of the first innings.

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