Victoria 6 for 266 (Harris 141) lead New South Wales
Incumbent Australia Test opener Marcus Harris confirmed his status as a genuine big game player after scoring his third century in Sheffield Shield finals to hold Victoria's first innings together on day one against New South Wales.
He made a sublime 141 off 229 balls on a day when the home side managed just 6 for 266. New South Wales will rue the four catches they put down on a day of hard toil for little reward. At stumps the bonus points, which would decide the title in the event of a draw, stood at 0.66 for Victoria and 0.6 for New South Wales.
Harris added to his extraordinary record in Shield deciders. He became the eighth player to make 500 runs or more in Shield finals taking his tally to 521 runs from six innings at an average of 104.20. His love affair with the Junction Oval also continued. He now has 661 runs at 94.43 with three hundreds and two 90s in seven innings at the ground. He also took his remarkable Shield season tally to 1165 runs at 72.81 including three centuries.
Victoria needed Harris' heroics after winning the toss and electing to bat on a dry, up and down surface.The home side agonised in the lead-up over whether to select another specialist batsman but opted for the five bowlers, with James Pattinson batting at No.7, as they have done for most of the season.
Travis Dean and Matt Short both played a part in 63 and 80-run stands with Harris but no other player in the top six scored more than 34.
Dean played a loose stroke after a solid start edging Sean Abbott on the up to slip. Victoria reached 1 for 87 at lunch before Trent Copeland trapped Will Pucovski lbw for 11.
But Harris played with typical fluency while the scoring stalled at the other end. He was savage on any width, particularly off the back foot. The vast majority of his 17 boundaries came square of the wicket with trademark cuts and square drives. He was unperturbed in the middle session as the Blues set quite a defensive field and was happy to milk singles and twos to deep point and deep backward square.
He did have a fair bit of good fortune. He edged Abbott knee-high between third slip and gully in the eighth over and popped a drive just over Jack Edwards' head at cover off Copeland in the 15th. He was also dropped on 71 and 121. Nick Larkin spilt a very sharp low catch to his right at a floating slip before tea and then Copeland grassed a waist-high chance in the same position six overs away from the second new ball.
However, the Blues got their own slice of luck with the dismissal of Seb Gotch. Copeland found Gotch's outside edge with a good length outswinger and Edwards pouched the flying chance at third slip only for replays on the television coverage to show Copeland had overstepped the front line by a long way, which had been missed by umpire Paul Wilson. Despite the final being broadcast live on Fox Sports in Australia, the playing conditions for the final don't allow for the third umpire Gerard Abood to check for no-balls after a wicket has fallen.
The incorrect decision stood as a result, leaving Victoria 3 for 113. That soon became 4 for 124 when Cameron White spooned a catch to point five overs later.But Harris and Short steadied in the afternoon session. Short fell to a superb catch from wicketkeeper Peter Nevill, diving to his left to grab an inside edge that deflected some way from the bowling of Moises Henriques.
Harris got good support from James Pattinson before falling to the second new ball when he edged a very full ball from Abbott to Copeland at slip.
Pattinson and Chris Tremain scratched for 57 balls to get to stumps six down, adding just 15 runs to the total. Pattinson also had a reprieve late in the day when the usually flawless Nevill dropping a catchable chance off Copeland after he was wrong footed.