Travis Head may not have had the most productive period in the UK during the winter in Australia, but he cites his experiences in the county game’s one-day competition as a vital factor in his record-breaking knock against Queensland today.
Head blew a career-high 230 from 127 balls to lead South Australia to a drought-breaking victory in 67 races in their Marsh One Day Cup match, the Redbacks’ first win in any men’s competition in more than 600 days.
After losing his place in Australia’s Test team and then his Cricket Australia contract shortly before heading to England and a period with Sussex earlier this year, his immediate return to red ball cricket offered him some comfort.
But as the British season of limited overs began, the left-hander began to find touch, believing he added crucial elements to his game that led him to write centuries in two of his three innings across the one-day and Shield- formats since his return.
“I think I just played it, to be pretty honest,” Head said tonight when asked what the big change in his one-day game had been in preparing him for an innings like today.
“There was a period there where I did not play much List-A cricket, I have probably only played 25 to 30 matches for South Australia.
“So it really helped to travel to England and even though I didn’t get the big score, there were still consistent scores and I felt like I hit the white ball really well.
“I worked really hard on my spin game, but I think that even though I’ve played a lot of Big Bash during that period of two years or so, I haven’t necessarily played a lot of 50-over cricket.
“So the hard work of the last period, maybe we see the fruits of it.”
The most recent of Heads’ 42 one-day international appearances to date came against South Africa at Hobart in November 2018, when he worked in 21 deliveries to score six.
Since then, no one has scored more races in the Marsh One Day Cup competition than his 609 runs from 10 innings, and his strike rate over this period (134.73) is significantly higher than the second-fastest score among those who have made 250 runs or more – Queensland’s Sam Heazlett, with 484 runs at 113.6.
Heads’ double century came today out of a remarkable 114 balls (with 25 fours and seven sixes), with his second hundred coming from just 49 balls, which is faster than ex-WA goalkeeper Luke Ronchi’s 56-ball ton in 2007, which stands as the fastest single century in one-day competition.
In addition, Heads’ scoring rate is 181.1 per. 100 balls standing in front, the highest of any centenarian in the history of Australia’s domestic men’s competition.
The second fastest goal in a three-digit knock was David Hussey’s 113 from 64 balls (at a speed of 176.6) for Victoria against New South Wales at SCG 13 years ago.
His head could have been rejected three times on his way to his highest list-A score, all catches effectively taken at the limit (when he was 63, 186 and then 222) before fielders threw the ball back into the field of play for fear to carry it over the rope.
But by the same token, these agile actions in the outfield might have cost the former Australian vice-captain up to a dozen races, which would have pushed his score closer to D’Arcy Short’s benchmark for the 257-day domestic competition against Queensland at. Hurstville Oval in 2018.
“I took my chances in the beginning and got started quickly, which always helps,” Head said.
“I moved really well into the ball, and was probably a little eager to get into the game, as I had a few weeks left since the last Shield game.
“There was probably a little bit in the wicket at first and they bowled quite well, but when I first got in, I chose my goals and the parts of the ground where I could utilize it.
“And the small breaks in the game helped enough.
“The drinking break that came right after I got a hundred, I was driving about a million miles an hour and it just gave me time to relax, and the same thing again when we got out of the rain (in the 40th over) .
“I was pretty broken at the time, so to have that little rain delay and then get out again probably came at a good time.”
Heads 244-run partnership with opener Jake Weatherald (97 out of 103 balls) was not only a second-wicket record for SA in the history of one-day competition, it drove the Redbacks to their second-highest total of 8-391 from 48 overs.
That was despite a late innings shower of wickets, with the home team losing 6-41 in 28 balls as they swung at each offer.
The loss of two overs to the early afternoon shower meant Queensland’s goal hit 397, but further rain in the 20th (when the Bulls were 3-145) during their chase saw the task adjusted to 380 from a total of 44 overs.
Even with the marginal downward revision, Queensland needed to send the second-highest race chase the competition has seen to steal a win.
But they could have comforted themselves in knowing the record for the biggest successful pursuit (3-402 against Tasmania at the North Sydney Oval in 2014), held by the Bulls and backed by current skipper Usman Khawaja, who scored 166 of 110 balls that day.
That hope from the outside took a hit when Khawaja was rated lbw for Nick Winter in the fourth transition, but his opening partner Heazlett took up the challenge and for a while Queensland had an unlikely victory.
Heazlett seemed to write a hundred on an even bigger clip than Head as he ran to 93 from 59 balls, but he failed to read leg spinner Lloyd Pope’s wrong-un and advanced down the field before being cleverly stumped.
From there, Queensland lost regular wickets just as partnerships began to take shape, and when ex-Test opener Matthew Renshaw fell to former team-mate Brendan Doggett for 52, demand had risen to 11 runs and over.
Doggett finished with 4-75 in his first outing for his new team against his previous condition, including the valued scalp of test battery Marnus Labuschagne (6 of 11 balls) who topped the second delivery of speed in his new livery to deep backward square legs.
He also ended Queensland’s last fleeting hope of an epic race chase when he caught Michael Neser (55 from 30 balls) in the middle after Queenslander combined with all-rounder Jack Wildermuth (37 from 18) in a final ditch seventh-wicket stand at 64 out of 32 balls.
The two teams go into place in a Marsh Sheffield Shield match at the Adelaide Oval starting on Friday.
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