NSW's all-round power delivers Pura Cup title
New South Wales 281 & 8 for 563 dec beat Victoria 216 & 370 (Jewell 99, White 57, Crosthwaite 50, Casson 4-128) by 258 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
New South Wales became the Pura Cup champions for the third time in six years with a 258-run win over Victoria after Beau Casson grabbed four wickets on the fifth day. Nick Jewell looked set to pick up a consolation century but his dismissal for 99 was indicative of Victoria's season - so near and yet so far.
The Bushrangers were consistent enough to make all three domestic finals, however for the second summer in a row they had to settle only for the Twenty20 title. The Blues, on the other hand, had a terrible limited-overs campaign yet completed the Pura Cup undefeated and deserved the triumph.
Even without their Australian stars returning for the decider, New South Wales would have been hard to beat. As it was, Brett Lee picked up five wickets and made 97 in his first Pura Cup final, Stuart Clark grabbed handy victims and Michael Clarke contributed a useful 64.
The Blues had batted Victoria out of the contest on the fourth day and they began the final morning wondering only if they would secure the title with a victory or a home draw. They knew how the Bushrangers felt as New South Wales started the fifth day of last year's decider 567 behind, with ten wickets in hand away from home against Tasmania; Victoria had eight wickets up their sleeve and were down by 532.
It looked like being a quick kill when David Hussey (31) drove Lee to cover in the first over of the morning without adding to his overnight score. However, Jewell and Cameron White combined for a handy 115-run stand, Adam Crosthwaite chipped in with a half-century, Bryce McGain posted his highest first-class score and the last pair, Dirk Nannes and Shane Harwood, combined for 52 to extend the match to within ten minutes of tea.
Casson bowled 29.3 overs unchanged on the fifth day and finished the job with McGain caught at bat-pad for 25 before finally trapping Nannes lbw for 32. New South Wales celebrated and as their major contributors, including the captain, Man of the Match and Player of the Series, Simon Katich, and the centurion Phillip Hughes, grabbed stumps, the injured Doug Bollinger and those who made way for the international stars, such as Mark Cameron, joined the fun on the SCG.
Katich made 86 and 92 and passed the all-time record for most runs in a season during the decider, but said the only thing that mattered was the title. "The main thing is we've got this trophy in the cabinet," Katich said. "It's nice to have done well but this is what means the most. I'm just so proud of the boys."
The Blues had endured a longer wait for the party than they anticipated after White and Jewell frustrated the hosts through most of the first session. White entertained the crowd with consecutive sixes pulled and slog-swept off Casson before he skied a catch to mid-on on 57, giving Clark a wicket in his first over of the day.
That started a mini-collapse as Casson had Andrew McDonald (4) caught at silly point and Jewell was lbw to Clark from the last ball before the break. It was a disappointing end for Jewell, who wanted a healthy score to help him confirm his spot as Victoria's No. 1 opener for 2008-09 after averaging 31.31 for the season before this innings.
He was in a more positive frame of mind than usual, freed of the burden of expectation as Victoria knew they could not win the match. Jewell narrowly missed his first six of the summer when he pulled Stuart MacGill marginally short of the midwicket boundary, and he cover-drove and flicked through the legside with confidence.
Like Jewell, Crosthwaite could not afford to throw his wicket away as he aimed to stay in front of Matthew Wade as Victoria's preferred wicketkeeper. He helped himself to 50 - he previously had only one half-century from a first-class career spanning four seasons - before Casson's wrist-spinner stayed low and struck the stumps.
The win was the 45th domestic first-class title for New South Wales - the first 42 were Sheffield Shields and the remaining three were Pura Cups. They will return in 2008-09 as defending champions of a competition that will have either a completely new name or an old familiar one, as the Pura Cup is farewelled and the Sheffield Shield could be reinstated.
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo