March 21, 2002

Memorable Sheffield Shield/Pura Cup Final moments

Outstanding moments, incidents and performances in the 19-year history of interstate first-class finals in Australia:

1. Queensland v South Australia, Sheffield Shield Final 1994-95, Brisbane: After 63 years in the title wilderness, Queensland's innings and 101 run win over South Australia in 1994-95 was as much an unrestrained expression of state pride as a match of cricket. All roads led to the 'Gabba as an aggregate attendance of 47,296 basked in an early South Australian batting collapse; merciless batting from Trevor Barsby, Martin Love and Allan Border; and a methodical Queensland bowling and fielding effort in the game's dying stages. It was close to Border's last first-class match and, though Paul Nobes and Darren Webber offered spirited resistance, there was little doubt about which way it would end once the Bulls had reached a first innings score of 3/479 on the match's third day. A catch by Carl Rackemann at backward point at 3:52pm on the final afternoon ushered in unprecedented scenes of celebration.

2. South Australia v Western Australia, Sheffield Shield Final 1995-96, Adelaide: South Australia's attainment, against the odds, of a draw in the 1995-96 Sheffield Shield Final against Western Australia surely ranks as one of the most amazing finishes to a match in Australian history. In front of a crowd estimated at close to 15000, last wicket pair Shane George and Peter McIntyre outlasted a desperate Western Australian attack for a period that spanned 40 minutes and 59 balls in order to save the match, give their state its first Sheffield Shield for 14 years, and usher in scenes of wild jubilation. The South Australians had devoted themselves to the task of merely protecting their eight remaining wickets on the last day but were in early bother when nightwatchman Jason Gillespie fell to a catch at the wicket and Darren Lehmann to a controversial lbw decision. Captain Jamie Siddons stayed at the wicket for 166 minutes while he played one scoring shot, though; more than an hour was eaten up by Tim May's duck; and Greg Blewett and James Brayshaw also spent long periods at the crease. George and McIntyre were later drawn into celebrating with delirious intent after their twin vigil capped the Redbacks' strategy of defiance. Earlier, Adam Gilchrist had reasserted his credentials as one of Australian domestic cricket's most outstanding players by producing a breathtaking unbeaten 189 (from 187 balls) in Western Australia's first innings.

3. New South Wales v Queensland, Sheffield Shield Final 1984-85, Sydney: It was only the third interstate first-class final ever played but few if any of the deciders played since that time have been more dramatic or more closely tinged with tension. New South Wales' one wicket win over Queensland in the Sheffield Shield Final in 1984-85 owed much to superb swing and seam bowling from import player Imran Khan and an outstanding opening partnership in the first innings between John Dyson and Steve Smith. Fine spin bowling late in the match from Murray Bennett also assisted immeasurably. But, most of all, it relied on a nerveless, unbroken union of 14 runs for the tenth wicket between Peter Clifford and Dave Gilbert. Clifford, who ironically later relocated to Queensland, played the hand of his career in holding the home team's second innings together as it pursued a victory target of 220. Experienced pair Trevor Hohns and Carl Rackemann were the biggest threats to the Blues' hopes - a first innings century and outstanding bowling on the match's final day the defining features of their respective games. In emotional scenes, Clifford departed the SCG a hero while the Queenslanders were left to rue how desperately close they had come to securing their state's first-ever first-class crown. It would be another decade before they finally laid the ghost to rest.

4. Queensland v Victoria, Pura Milk Cup Final 1999-2000, Brisbane: The blood of Victorians still boils when they're reminded of umpire Steve Davis' rejection of a caught behind appeal against Queensland captain Stuart Law at a pivotal moment late on the opening day of the Pura Cup Final of 1999-2000. Law's score was on 76 at the time and replays confirmed initial impressions that the right hander had emphatically outside edged a delivery from left arm paceman Mathew Inness. It helped Law continue on to register his maiden first-class hundred of the season and to join with twin centurion Martin Love in definitively batting the visitors out of the game. Albeit that swing bowler Andy Bichel's clinical destruction of the Victorian upper and middle order later had just as much effect on the result.

5. Queensland v Victoria, Pura Cup Final 2000-01, Brisbane: Twelve months on, an association between a Brisbane finals match, Stuart Law, and a controversial decision was playing on Victorian minds again when an outstanding attempt at a catch at third slip by Michael Klinger was ruled invalid. As Law walked out to bat early on the fifth morning, the Queenslanders had stumbled to a score of 3/139 in pursuit of a target of 224 to win. His first ball was played off an edge low to a diving Klinger's right but television replays failed to prove or disprove the Victorians' unanimous belief that the catch had been legitimately taken only inches above the turf. Third umpire Peter Parker had no option but to rule that Law should be given the benefit of considerable doubt. The Queensland captain stood his ground, proceeded to play and miss repeatedly, was caught off a no ball, dropped twice, and was ultimately still at the crease when the Bulls secured a tension-packed win with only four wickets to spare. Victorian captain Paul Reiffel was later relieved of $200 of his match fee for dissent.

6. Western Australia v New South Wales, Sheffield Shield Final 1991-92, Perth: Justin Langer has played many outstanding innings during his years with Western Australia, Middlesex and Australia. But, for sheer quality, there have been few to surpass the brilliant 149 that he crafted under enormous pressure against New South Wales in the 1991-92 Sheffield Shield Final. The then 21-year-old displayed remarkable poise, putting the memory of a car crash on the third morning of the match behind him and standing firm for more than six hours amid a series of dramatic batting collapses that threatened - in turn - to dash the victory hopes of each of the two teams. Western Australia had trailed by 19 runs on the first innings and then courted almost-certain disaster in crashing to 3/3 a second time. But it was from this point that the implacable Langer took command, and his second first-class century formed the backbone of crucial stands of 91 for the fourth wicket with Damien Martyn and 191 for the seventh with Tim Zoehrer. Requiring 326 for victory, New South Wales reached 2/202 at one point before succumbing to a collapse of their own that saw seven wickets tumble as only 42 runs were added. Less than a year passed before Langer was in his country's Test team.

7. Western Australia v New South Wales, Sheffield Shield Final 1982-83, Perth: Prior to the 1982-83 Sheffield Shield Final, Western Australian victories over New South Wales in Perth had become commonplace. For the majority of the opening four days of the inaugural first-class finals match in Australia, it again looked like the Sandgropers were destined to claim the spoils. But the visitors were fired by a remark from rival captain Kim Hughes on their way off the field on the fourth evening. They returned the following morning with renewed purpose and aggression, triggering a dramatic late collapse from their opponents that resulted in a shock 54-run win to the Blues. Trevor Chappell, a late inclusion in the team after selectors had agonised over the decision to omit fiery paceman Len Pascoe from the line-up, was the hero after he paired a haul of six wickets with a handy score of 33 in the second innings of a low-scoring match. It would be another 14 years before an away team again won a Sheffield Shield Final.

8. Western Australia v Tasmania, Sheffield Shield Final 1997-98, Perth: Western Australia had only three first innings wickets in hand, and a lead of 112 over Tasmania, when Brendon Julian walked to the crease on the third morning of the Sheffield Shield Final of 1997-98. Just over two hours' later, the game had effectively been whisked from Tasmania's grasp; Julian cracked 119 runs off his own bat alone between lunch and tea in the midst of a brutal partnership of 136 with captain Tom Moody that ultimately helped swell the Warriors' lead to an imposing 286 on the first innings. Jamie Cox had carried his bat in a brilliant performance in the first innings, and Michael Di Venuto cracked a sumptuous 189 in the second, but a fighting Tasmania could not avert a seven wicket defeat.

9. Queensland v Western Australia, Sheffield Shield Final 1998-99, Brisbane:: Not content with one effort at dismantling the hopes of a finals opponent, Brendon Julian was back to do it a second time when he joined with Simon Katich and Damien Martyn to topple Queensland in Brisbane in 1998-99. Wickets continued to fall quickly throughout the match on a generally good pitch but Julian's all-conquering 84 - made from only 71 balls and including eight fours and four sixes - helped to give Western Australia an invaluable 160-run first innings lead. Martyn reaffirmed the edge, complementing four first innings wickets and a patient 85 with the vital scalp of Matthew Hayden from the very last delivery of the third day's play. Katich and Queensland's Andrew Symonds had earlier pressed their respective cases for Australian selection by trading first innings centuries.

10. Victoria v New South Wales, Sheffield Shield Final 1990-91, Melbourne: A game marked by poor weather and poor batting was turned on its head when Jamie Siddons and Wayne Phillips joined in the magnificent, match-winning partnership that clinched Victoria's 1990-91 Sheffield Shield Final triumph over New South Wales. All of the first day of the match was surrendered to persistent Melbourne rain but it ultimately failed to stop the Victorians' charge toward what remains their state's last first-class title and their only one since 1979-80. The hosts made a good start to the match, quickly dismissing the Blues for 223 once the rains cleared but they promptly handed back the advantage when Wayne Holdsworth and Phil Alley combined to wreck the top and middle order and send the Vics crashing to an even more sickly 119. The Victorians looked in hopeless trouble when their opponents registered a half-century stand to mark the opening of their second innings but hit back through persistent line and length bowling from Tony Dodemaide and captain Simon O'Donnell. The Blues again seemed to be in the box seat when Victoria slumped to 2/27 as it chased a score of 239 to win but the assessment rather ignored the skill, defiance and experience of Siddons and Phillips. Over close to five hours and under the most intense of pressures, they added an unbroken 212 runs together to decisively seal the issue.