South Australian opener Henry Hunt has pushed his Test credentials with a match-saving performance in the Sheffield Shield, surviving 326 deliveries at the crease against Victoria at Karen Rolton Oval.
The 25-year-old finished unbeaten on 97 as the Redbacks clinched a draw on Sunday, batting for 107.4 overs in the fourth innings for the loss of just seven wickets in Adelaide.
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Resuming day four at 0/38, chasing a near-impossible target of 425 for victory, Hunt and opening partner Jake Weatherald combined for a 78-run partnership before Ashes hero Scott Boland struck in the morning session.
The South Australians then lost 5/47, with captain Travis Head and wicketkeeper Alex Carey falling cheaply, to put Victoria within touching distance of victory.
But Hunt refused to budge, batting out the evening session alongside tailenders Wes Agar (19 off 56 balls) and David Grant, who survived 45 deliveries without scoring.
As the sun started to set in the South Australian capitals, Victoria’s seamers resorted to bouncing Grant with a heavy on-side field without success, and eventually the players shook hands.
Boland finished with match figures of 6/109 from 45 overs, while Victorian debutant Fergus O’Neill impressed with 3/24 from 17 overs in the second innings.
Hunt ended the seven-hour marathon agonisingly short of an eighth first-class century, but the talented right-hander enhanced his reputation regardless.
According to statistician Parashu Uniyal, Hunt is the first cricketer to face 300 or more deliveries in the fourth innings of a drawn Sheffield Shield match since West Australian legend Geoff Marsh achieved the feat in November 1985.
Former South Australian paceman Chadd Sayers tweeted: “Henry Hunt is an absolute gun. Next in the Test team as an opener!”
Hunt has scored 1816 Sheffield Shield runs at 39.47 since making his first-class debut in 2019, including six centuries and seven fifties for the Redbacks.
He was South Australia’s highest run-scorer in the Sheffield Shield last summer, plundering 601 runs at 42.92 in eight matches.
Hunt was the only cricketer to score three Sheffield Shield centuries last season.
He earned a call-up to the Australia A squad earlier this year, scoring a century against Sri Lanka in Hambantota.
Australia’s current Test openers, David Warner and Usman Khawaja, are both entering the twilight of their international careers, and Hunt has emerged as one of the leading contenders to fill that void.
Earlier in the match at Karen Rolton Oval, Victorian captain Peter Handscomb scored 132 in the second innings to put the visitors in a commanding position.
But with the power of hindsight, Handscomb will question whether he should have declared the innings earlier.