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Queensland and NSW in tight Gabba battle

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Mark Steketee and Michael Neser struck early in NSW’s second innings, disposing of the side’s openers in the blink of an eye.

New South Wales’ clash with Queensland is speeding towards a dramatic conclusion on day three at the Gabba, with Queensland’s quicks wreaking havoc on their southern rivals early.

It looked to be a simple equation for the men from south of the Tweed — chase down 137 runs with ample time to get the second chapter of their Sheffield Shield season off to the best start possible.

But Michael Neser and Mark Steketee, two of the premier pacemen in the nation, had other ideas.

Within minutes, NSW had lost both openers, who managed only two runs between them before walking back to the shed with their tails between their legs and leaving the scorecard at 2-2.

Steketee bowled Ryan Hackney with a yorker, turning in a wicket maiden with his first over. It was his sixth wicket of the match.

Apparently determined to outdo his teammate, recent Test debutant Neser claimed the huge scalp of NSW’s first innings saviour Daniel Hughes shortly afterwards. The veteran opener was caught behind by gloveman Jimmy Peirson, unable to replicate the unbeaten 86 he scored in his first knock.

The early carnage came after Queensland’s tail collapsed in stunning fashion on the morning of day three, consigning the homeside to a paltry 129-run total in its second innings.

But with Neser and Steketee steering the ship, the Bulls can’t be counted out just yet.

Late Labuschagne dismissal gives NSW hope

Queensland’s hopes of building an imposing lead over NSW were dented when Test star Marnus Labuschagne was dismissed late on the second day of a tight Sheffield Shield battle at the Gabba.

Labuschagne seemed set for a big score until he skied a ball from Harry Conway to backward square leg, where Tanveer Sangha took a good catch to send the classy right-hander packing for 44.

Sam Truloff (18) followed Labuschagne back to the pavilion soon after as the Bulls – who also lost the wickets captain Usman Khawaja (6), Bryce Street (14) and Matthew Renshaw (12) – stumbled to 5-105 at stumps.

It gives the hosts, who have wicket-keeper Jimmy Peirson (3*) and all-rounder Jack Wildermuth (0*) unbeaten at the crease, an overall lead of 112 with two days remaining of what has been a low-scoring affair largely dominated by the ball.

Bulls paceman Mark Steketee earlier bagged a five-wicket haul as the Blues were bowled out for 186, seven runs shy of Queensland’s first-innings total of 193.

That was despite a heroic unbeaten knock of 86 from Blues skipper Daniel Hughes, who carried his bat through the NSW innings.

Hughes’ defiant and entertaining 155-ball innings included 14 boundaries.

However, with the Blues’ nearing an unlikely first-innings lead after earlier slumping to 7-86, No.11 batsman Tanveer Sangha (1) popped up a catch to Mitchell Swepson in the covers to give Steketee his fifth wicket of the innings.

Named as a standby player for Australia’s tour of Pakistan, Steketee celebrated with the figures of 5-46 from 19.1 overs, taking the final three wickets of the Blues innings to go with the two he claimed on Wednesday afternoon.

Steketee was ably supported by Test paceman Michael Neser (3-68), while Wildermuth and James Bazley claimed a wicket apiece.

Blues tailender Chris Tremain (37) provided the most support to Hughes, with the pair sharing in a 66-run eighth wicket partnership.

It was eventually Steketee who broke the partnership, with Tremain edging to first slip, where Renshaw took a low catch.

Having started the day at 2-33, the Blues had slumped to 7-125 at lunch.

Neser, who made his Test debut in the recent Ashes series, took three of the five wickets to fall in the morning session.

He had Jack Edwards (12) and Baxter Holt (10) caught at second slip by Truloff, and also had Trent Copeland (0) edging to the slips, where Labuschagne grabbed the catch.

Test hero thwarts disaster

A captain’s knock from Usman Khawaja saved the Queensland Bulls from total disaster on the opening day of their Sheffield Shield clash against NSW at the Gabba.

Having moved to the top of the order after Joe Burns was ruled out with Covid-19, Bulls skipper Khawaja made a fighting 63 before a dramatic batting collapse, in which Queensland lost its final six wickets for just 46 runs, resulted in the hosts being bowled out for a paltry 193.

In reply, the Blues were 2-33 at stumps, with Bulls paceman Mark Steketee (2-6) having claimed the wickets of debutant Ryan Hackney (0) and Jason Sangha (14).

Hackney made the brave decision to play following the death of his father Peter last week from a heart attack.

Cricket NSW’s head of male performance Michael Klinger said: “NSW was always going to support him regardless of what decision he made.

“However, Ryan came back and said that not only had he worked too hard to turn down the opportunity, but he knew that his father would want him to take it.

“Over the last week Ryan has shown a high degree of resilience dealing with an extremely

tragic situation.”

Hackney wasn’t the only batsman to struggle, with only four Bulls batsmen reaching double figures.

Sam Truloff (37) and Test bowler Michael Neser (24 not out) the next best scorers after Khawaja.

Khawaja’s fellow Test star Marnus Labuschagne was an early casualty as the Bulls slumped to 2-24 in the 15th over.

Labuschagne – who came to the wicket with Queensland at 1-9 after the dismissal of Bryce Street for five – only made eight in a 26-ball innings that ended when he failed to offer a shot to a Trent Copeland delivery that smashed into his pads.

An unbeaten 36-run partnership between Khawaja and Matt Renshaw took the Bulls to 2-60 at lunch.

Renshaw eventually fell with the Bulls total at 79 when he top-edged an attempted pull shot off the bowling of Chris Tremain.

Harry Conway ran around from mid-on to take the catch and end Renshaw’s innings at 12 from 61 balls.

Truloff, playing for Queensland for the first time since 2018, joined Khawaja at the crease, with the pair sharing in a 61-run partnership before the Bulls skipper was caught at first slip by Copeland off the bowling of Jack Edwards in the 54th over.

The dismissal of Truloff, who made 37 before being trapped LBW almost immediately after tea by Edwards, signalled the start of the Bulls’ collapse, with only Michael Neser (24 not out) providing any genuine late-order resistance.

Paceman Tremain was the pick of the Blues’ bowlers, taking 3-26 off 17 overs.

Tremain was ably supported by Edwards (2-17), Tanveer Sangha (2-17) and Hayden Kerr (2-41).

“It (the Gabba pitch) offers everything that you need as a fast bowler – the challenge is bowling full enough,” Tremain said.

“What we most like about the Gabba is a team is going to get bowled out twice. There are seldom draws here”

NSW batsman Matthew Gilkes was a late withdrawal from the match after testing positive to Covid-19. His place went to Lachlan Hearne.

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