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Pucovski shines on opening day



Young Victorian batsman Will Pucovski continues to firm for an Australian Test debut this summer, making an unbeaten 183 on the opening day of the Sheffield Shield match against Western Australia at Karen Rolton Oval.


The Vics closed the opening day at 1-322 having been invited to bat first by WA skipper Shaun Marsh, Pucovski batting through the entire day's play with support from Marcus Harris (71) and captain Peter Handscomb (49*) in a dominant batting display.


Marsh's call to bowl first was influenced by a green tinge to the pitch on the opening morning, hoping the bowlers could make the most of the conditions and make early breakthroughs in to the Victorian batting order.


WA went in to the match without a front line spinner, Ashton Agar rested to manage his workload with Hilton Cartwright replacing him in the starting XI.


Having added a Shield record stand of 486 last week against South Australia openers Pucovski and Harris started well, Matt Kelly's erratic opening over setting the tone for the WA bowling effort with Harris capitalising on three loose balls to get his innings up and moving.


Pucovski didn't score from his first 21 balls but then found his range by cutting Aaron Hardie for four, Victoria in complete control by the time lunch rolled around at 0/89 with both batsmen well set.


The young right hander looked at ease against all bowlers put in front of him, quick to jump on anything short as he passed 50 and flew towards a hundred.


Harris was happy to take a back seat as Pucovski prospered, the 22 year old bringing up his sixth century in just 22 first class matches with a cut shot for four off spinner D'Arcy Short.


With incumbent Test opener Joe Burns having failed to pass 30 so far in the Shield competition for Queensland, Pucovski had plenty of fuel left in the tank to push on and make another big score, having made an undefeated 255 last week in his first innings of the summer.


Harris was starting to dream of another century of his own as the Tea interval approached, but fell for 71 as he was superbly caught by Sam Whiteman at cover one handed diving to his right off the bowling of Matt Kelly to break the opening stand at 186.


There would be no further success in the day's play for Western Australia as Handscomb partnered Pucovski for a 136 run unbroken second wicket stand, the second new ball not bringing the desired breakthrough for Marsh's men.


Pucovski is just 17 runs away from becoming the first batsman since Tasmanian Dene Hills in 1997-98 to score consecutive double centuries in Sheffield Shield cricket, having currently made 438 runs without dismissal.


Handscomb is one run short of a half century of his own heading in to the second day, WA in need of a change in fortunes to turnaround a dispiriting opening day.


In other matches as part of round four of the Sheffield Shield New South Wales were skittled for 64 against Tasmania at Gladys Elphick Park, Jackson Bird claiming four wickets before a gritty unbeaten 64 from opener Jordan Silk gave the Tigers an 85 run first innings lead with six wickets still in hand by the close.


Queensland captain Usman Khawaja scored his first century in three years at Shield level to put his team in control against South Australia at Glenelg Oval, the left hander striking a classy 131 with unbeaten half centuries from Matt Renshaw (84*) and Jimmy Pierson (60*) putting the Bulls in a strong position at 4-331.


Play will resume at 8:30 AM tomorrow morning, with 91.3 Sport FM's coverage to commence at 9AM after Sports Breakfast with Jacob Landsmeer and Wayne Clark.


IMAGE: The Daily Telegraph.

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