THE landscape is foreign but the bitter rivalry familiar as South Australia treks into a Sheffield Shield showdown against Victoria in Alice Springs.
The Redbacks on Sunday resume hostilities with a traditional foe that has won six of their past seven clashes, including last season’s final at Gliderol Stadium.
Assistant coach Mick Lewis’ ball tampering sanction marred Victoria’s back-to-back title triumph last March and soured relations with Travis Head’s men.
Victoria was miffed when the Redbacks opposed an injury replacement request for keeper Sam Harper in Adelaide last month.
“They have a number of games and years on us but we have a chance to get one back on them and our young blokes don’t take a backward step,” said Callum Ferguson, who will notch his 100th first-class game for SA in the final.
The MCG and Junction Oval are unavailable for cricket, triggering the move of the final to Traeger Park where the Redbacks haven’t appeared.
Left-arm tweaker Jon Holland and leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed have 19 wickets each in four games at Traeger.
Resurgent, 17-Test firebrand James Pattinson’s 5/58 destroyed Western Australia in Alice Springs this month noted Victorian skipper Cameron White.
“SA hasn’t played here so that is an advantage for us but in saying that they have had a strong side over the past few years,” said White of Pattinson, back to his 150km/h best after a year sidelined by back stress fractures.
“Patto comes in peaking and ready to run the race of his life.”
The venue is new but its curators are born and bred Croweaters in legendary Adelaide Oval green-finger Les Burdett and former Redbacks all-rounder Trent Kelly.
The pitch will suit Bushrangers duo Holland and Fawad but Australian one-day leg-spinner Adam Zampa will also exploit wear and tear as SA targets a first title since 1995-96.
Head has absolute faith in an attack led by 54-wicket talisman Chadd Sayer this season against a Victorian side missing Test trio Peter Handscomb, Marcus Stoinis and Matt Wade.
“They have done the job most times for us so if we can get enough runs to back the bowlers up I am sure we can take 20 wickets,” said Head.
“If we can put then under enough pressure and make them play for a draw that means we are probably ahead of the game.”
Head said the desert setting had released the pressure valve on an young SA group. Second-game rookie John Dalton, 20, and Jake Weatherald, 22, who made half centuries in last year’s final will set the tone against fierce new-ball duo Pattinson and Tremain
“We have come into the game more relaxed. There will be two very good, aggressive sides going at it,” he said.