Steve O'Keefe reminded Australian selectors of his quality with a career-best haul as traditional Sheffield Shield foes NSW and Victoria played out a dramatic opening day on Saturday at Junction Oval in Melbourne.
O'Keefe bowled with accuracy and turn to claim 8-77 for the Blues, with the defending champions and winners of three-straight titles fired out for 199 just after tea.
The left-armer's return from 32.4 accurate overs partly overshadowed a magnificent 109 from Victoria's Marcus Harris.
The opener scored more than half of his side's total in a boundary-laden innings, which included 14 fours and two sixes.
Victoria, celebrating their first match in almost a decade at the redeveloped St Kilda venue, made equally good use of the ball and had the Blues reeling at 4-65 by the close.
O'Keefe played the last of his nine Tests in September against Bangladesh.
The 33-year-old was overlooked this season for a Cricket Australia contract, with Victorian Jon Holland taken as the second spinner on the four-Test tour of South Africa as back-up to Nathan Lyon.
O'Keefe had collected just eight wickets this season from four Shield matches, but said last weekend's draw with Tasmania was the "best our bowlers have bowled all year".
Harris managed to defy O'Keefe before he was the sixth wicket to fall, caught behind off medium-pacer Harry Conway (1-28).
"The wicket felt pretty good with the seamers in the first hour but, once Steve O'Keefe came on, there was a bit of turn and a bit of bounce," said Harris.
"He is obviously a class bowler and he got the most out of it.
"With his angle, it is probably a bit harder to play as a right-hander so, being a left-hander, I could maybe get some easy singles, but he bowled really well."
After winning the toss and batting, Victoria's strong line-up failed to fire after Travis Dean (6), Glenn Maxwell (8), Will Pucovski (2) and Aaron Finch (0) all fell victim to O'Keefe, leaving the home side at 4-75.
NSW, however, made a similar start to the Vics, losing three of their recognised batsman, as well as nightwatchman Sean Abbott.
Victoria will lean heavily on legspinner Fawad Ahmed, supported by allrounder Maxwell's offspin.
"We would have signed up for four wickets (before taking the field) every time, so it is pretty even at the moment," Harris said.
Defeat for either side would likely be fatal amid a highly congested ladder, with just one more round to play.
Australian Associated Press