Marcus North has started the new year in the same vein of stellar form that steered Western Australia to the top half of the Sheffield Shield ladder before Christmas and ensured his name was once again noted by the Test selectors.
If not for the only rash stroke of his innings today, North may have progressed to his fourth century of his resurgent summer.
The veteran left-hander was culpable in his dismissal for 87 but it still took a fine piece of bowling by his former Test team-mate Ben Hilfenhaus to end the patient innings that was threatening to grind Tasmania out of the important match at the WACA Ground.
Hearty tail-end thumping from Sam Whiteman (55) and Nathan Coulter-Nile (34) provided WA with a first innings total of 279 that brought two points and a lead of 31.
Given that top two teams South Australia and NSW could record outright victories today, the Warriors need to push hard for the win that would maintain their prospects of qualifying for the shield final.
Michael Hogan helped WA’s cause with a double-wicket over that accounted for Mark Cosgrove (48) and Jon Wells as the Tigers reached 2-78, a lead of 47, with recent Test batsmen Ed Cowan (16 not out) and George Bailey (eight not out).
Coulter-Nile, who batted for only 29 minutes and bowled just 21 deliveries, was unable to compound Hogan’s strikes after being forced off the field with severe cramp.
The extended sparring session between North and Hilfenhaus was one of the intriguing elements of a day of attrition that saw scoring regularly fall below two an over.
North had passed 7000 shield runs on the first afternoon and was approaching 700 runs for the season when he succumbed to Hilfenhaus’s bumper trap.
Setting two men back on the boundary for the hook shot, Hilfenhaus peppered the left-hander whose first two strokes fell between and short of the catchers only for his third attempt to pick out fine leg.
The swing bowler relished his work from that point and added another four scalps to finish with 6-82, his best return in seven years.