Sheffield Shield previews: Tasmania and South Australia
Last season Fifth (League stage: 3 wins, 5 defeats, 2 draws)
Captain Matthew Wade
Coach Adam Griffith
George Bailey stepping away from the captaincy early last season and the shoulder injury he sustained during the BBL certainly disrupted Tasmania's attempt to try and go one better than 2017-18. They started the season with a superb win in Queensland but were very inconsistent thereafter. There was a heavy reliance on Matthew Wade in the middle order. He had an extraordinary season scoring over 1000 runs and moved from No. 6 to No. 4 midway through the year to firstly try and arrest Tasmania's batting issues but also push his Test case. He did the latter but could do nothing about the former and his potential absence during the Tests this summer will severely challenge Tasmania's young players. Jordan Silk and Alex Doolan battled manfully at the top of the order on a difficult new-ball pitch at Bellerive. Charlie Wakim announced himself at No.3 last year but they need the likes of Jake Doran and Ben McDermott to take the next step in the middle order. One of those two is likely to keep wicket when Tim Paine and Wade are unavailable while Silk is set to captain. The attack will be strong again. Jackson Bird and Gabe Bell are a formidable new-ball duo in the heavy Hobart air and Riley Meredith adds speed at first change. Tasmania opted to go without a specialist spinner quite often last year, particularly at home, but young offspinner Jarrod Freeman could well get further opportunities after debuting last season.
Player to watch
Jordan Silk made a century in Tasmania's last Sheffield Shield final triumph back in 2012-13. He was the youngest of the six players that season to make multiple Shield centuries at just 20, and he achieved it in just three games. He was selected to play for Australia A on a tour of England in 2013, but after 50 first-class games, and 97 innings, he's only managed to score four more centuries. Bellerive Oval has been a very difficult place to open the batting and so his overall average of 31.67 is better than it appears. At 27, he is stepping into the captaincy when Wade is absent and Tasmania would love for that added responsibility to help him thrive with the bat.
There is a lot of hype around Riley Meredith in white-ball cricket but Tasmania are excited about his development in all three forms. At 23, he is still arguably a little while away from becoming a fully-fledged international prospect but he has shown a lot of promise. He had a good Shield season last year as the first change option behind the new ball pairing of Bird and Bell as he took 27 wickets at an average of 28.96, without a five-wicket haul. Tasmania have some solid bowling all-rounders which allows Meredith to be used in shorter bursts to maximise his pace. His development will be interesting to follow.
Last season Sixth (League stage: 0 wins, 6 defeats, 4 draws)
Captain Travis Head
Coach Jamie Siddons
South Australia are desperate to improve this season after two disastrous years. They failed to win a game last season after winning just two the year before. There were some injury issues with 2016-17 Player of the Year Chadd Sayers missing half the season due to a knee injury, Ashes hopeful Daniel Worrell played just four games due to back and hamstring problems and Alex Carey missed eight games due to national duty. But coach Jamie Siddons is desperate to see his established players like Callum Ferguson, Tom Cooper, Jake Weatherald and Jake Lehmann step up. Captain Travis Head will also be eager for big runs to regain his Test place after failing to post a century last year despite reaching 50 five times in 13 Shield innings. The batsmen are still coming to terms with the new drop in surface at Adelaide Oval, which has become a seamer's playground after previously being a batsman's paradise. The bowling depth will be tested again. Sayers is still working back to full fitness, Worrall will miss the first part of the season and Joe Mennie, who took 37 wickets at 19.72 last season, is also sidelined. Young legspinner Lloyd Pope got a taste last year and may well play a little bit more this season depending on Adam Zampa's availability depending on T20I selection.
Player to watch
Alex Carey only played two matches last season and it remains to be seen how much he plays this season but at this stage, he is guaranteed to play three of the first four matches and looks set to be available for five of the first six. He broke the record for the most dismissals in a season in 2016-17 and is all but inked in as Paine's successor in the Australia's Test team, but the selectors will want more runs from him. He made a Shield century last season but he only has two first-class hundreds in 55 innings. He is a better player than that and some continuity in playing a string of first-class games should give him the chance to prove it.
Lloyd Pope has developed a cult following after bursting onto the scene in the Under-19 World Cup, but he found his first experience in Shield cricket difficult, as many young legspinners do. Western Australia's Shaun Marsh took a liking to him in a fourth-innings run chase last season and Pope learned some valuable lessons from the experience. He is expected to continue to develop over the coming seasons but patience will be required from all involved.