Jake Doran had to borrow Tim Paine’s wicketkeeping pads but the left-hander made the MCG his own on Sunday, as the best innings of his first-class career put Tasmania in the box seat to claim their first Marsh Sheffield Shield victory of the season.
Doran, who was told on Friday morning he would be taking the gloves in the absence of the ill Paine, backed up his first-innings half-century with a dogged 98 off 237 balls that has left Victoria with a tough final-day run chase of 253.
The 24-year-old fell an agonising two runs short of a deserved century in the final session, edging James Pattinson (3-54 from 26 overs) to first slip, but nonetheless shepherded Tasmania’s tail adeptly on day three to put on a match-turning 147 runs for the last five wickets.
Victoria reached 0-8 at stumps and will require another 245 to win in the fourth innings on one of the liveliest MCG surfaces produced in recent seasons.
Doran’s 336 balls faced across both innings is more than double the next highest tally in this match so far.
That has come in addition to his duties with the gloves, which he has had to undertake using Paine’s keeping pads given he was expecting to only play as a specialist batter before Tasmania’s captain was ruled out due to COVID-19 precautions.
“I think that’s the best I’ve batted in first-class cricket so far, in the toughest conditions (on) an inconsistent wicket and (against) a good bowling attack,” Doran, who pointed out he was now recorded scores of 97, 98 and 99 for Tasmania, told cricket.com.au.
“For me that’s probably up there as the best I’ve played. Really trying to make those scores into big scores – that’s the next step.
“A couple of years ago I stuck to one shot really – the cut. I think I scored 80 per cent of my runs with it, whereas in this game it’s been about one per cent, if that.
“For me to change that and start scoring a lot more on the leg side has been a big thing that I’ve (worked on). It’s worked this game and hopefully it works in future games.”
The Tigers were only 109 runs ahead when they lost their fifth wicket after lunch, yet Doran coolly pushed towards what would have been his second century of the Shield summer against the Pattinson-led home attack.
Doran had found support from Jarrod Freeman (30), Beau Webster (22) and Nathan Ellis (9 off 69 balls) before Tasmania were bowled out for 263 in their second innings.
The match had hung in the balance at the resumption of play on Sunday with Tasmania 2-64, ahead by 53, but a nine-over spell from Scott Boland (2-41 from 24 overs) saw Mac Wright (33 off 129 balls) and Caleb Jewell (nine off 64) both prodding balls to the slips.
When Alex Doolan succumbed after lunch to intense Victorian pressure, a three-day finish appeared a distinct possibility.
But the Tigers, led by Doran who began shuffling further in front of his stumps following a mid-innings technical adjustment, grittily refused to submit.
Day two: Bowlers dominate again on day two in Melbourne
“I said to our coach Jeff (Vaughan) at tea, ‘I don’t know how I’m doing it but I’m stepping across (my crease) – I’d never really done it before, but I’m outside off stump’,” said Doran.
“It slowly started happening and I slowly started getting off strike from there. That was the main thing – getting off strike and getting to the other end, and put away the bad ball, which they didn’t really give me too many of – credit to them, they bowled exceptionally well.”
While Pattinson’s wholehearted efforts were rewarded with an athletic caught-and-bowled off Webster with the second new ball, the allrounder had put on 44 invaluable runs with the resolute Doran, whose fifty came off a patient 153 deliveries.
No.8 Freeman proved equally stubborn; the 20-year-old off-spinner cuts an unusual shape for a first-class cricketer but, with the exception of a pull shot that was dropped at square in the first over after tea, rarely looked troubled in his 82-ball stay, stylishly flicking Pattinson through mid-wicket for four.
He was run out for the second time in the match when he pushed on to Mitch Perry at short fine leg, was sent back by Doran and couldn’t make his ground despite a sprawling dive.
Ellis survived a testing examination from a fired-up Pattinson, cracking a stunning pull shot through mid-wicket in the final session.
A remarkable reflex catch from Jake Fraser-McGurk at short leg off Matt Short saw the Vics claim a wicket out of nowhere, prompting the final three Tasmanian wickets to fall in the space of 10 balls.