Tasmania’s faint Sheffield Shield title hopes took a dive at the weekend, the state’s side losing both of its form spearheads inside 24 hours.
Rising star Gabe Bell and Test seamer Jackson Bird sustained serious injuries in Tasmania’s 206-run loss to Queensland at the Gabba.
The pair have been the state’s leading wicket-takers this season and have been among the top five bowlers in the domestic red-ball game.
“The second day both quicks went down, so that always makes it hard,” coach Adam Griffith said.
“We’re lucky we had some back-up. But it’s still tough when your best two go down midway through a game.”
Bell’s breakout Shield year appears shot after sustaining a fracture in his right foot.
The George Town product pulled up short in the final over of day two, unable to complete the over or take any further part in the match.
The 22-year-old swing bowler has been the Tigers’ newest hero, snaring 24 wickets at 19.79 in six Shield appearances that included a six-wicket haul against the Bulls before the injury.
“Look, Gabe was outstanding again until he went down with his foot,” Griffith said.
“He’s probably been one of the best bowlers in the competition this year.
“That’s a real positive move for us when he comes back.”
Bird, who was recalled to the Australian squad for the South African Test tour next month, strained a hamstring.
National selectors have placed Bird, who flew direct to Melbourne to meet with Cricket Australia medicos, under watch after the back-up Test paceman underwent scans during the Shield clash.
“He was moving around okay after the game, but with hamstrings you can never tell,” Griffith said. “But Gabe has a fracture in his fifth toe, so he’ll be out for the season.”
Tasmania’s injury list now contains three key players in their search for a first Shield title since 2012-13, with Bird and Bell joining opening batsman Jordan Silk [broken collarbone] on the sidelines.
The Tigers currently sit in fifth spot, but only trail Shield leaders Queensland by 8.33 points – little more than an outright win – with four matches still remaining in the four-day competition.
Tasmania next hosts Western Australia, starting Friday.
Griffith said Gabba 12th man Riley Meredith will be one paceman to come into the squad while the second was up for grabs four days out from the Shield match.
But it was the Tasmanian batsmen of concern, who struggled on a tough wicket.
“We made some poor decisions as a batting group with our shot selection, but some of the decisions were out of our hands,” Griffith said.
“But I thought we fought pretty hard in thee second innings. It was a 250-wicket that we saw from the first three innings. So we can take some positives out of that.”
The Tigers were bowled for 115 and 219, the two lowest scores of the four innings.
But Griffith forecasted no changes to the top six batters.
“We’ll give them another opportunity. We’re trying not to make too many changes. We want to give some continuity to the group,” he said.
Players were still adjusting from the Big Bash format, Griffith said, which was a “bit of a circus at times”.
“It can be hard, but we’re professional cricketers and that’s our job to deal with it.”