December 4, 2000

Blues stage amazing turnaround to beat Warriors

The New South Wales Blues came back from a first-innings deficit of 187 to beat the Western Warriors by 51 runs in an extraordinary Pura Cup comeback at North Sydney Oval today.

Needing just 141 runs for victory in a little less than five hours, the West Australians were bundled out for 89 in only 35.3 overs on a pitch which was starting to keep low.

The key destroyers for NSW were left-arm paceman Nathan Bracken (5/22 from 15 overs) and right-arm speedster Don Nash (3/31 from 11.3). Brendon Julian played a swashbuckling innings of a run-a-ball 32, but coming to the crease at 6/49 it was too little, too late.

The final day began with the Blues 6/246, only 59 ahead with four secondinnings wickets in hand. They pushed the score along to 327, thanks mainly to a 51-run eighth wicket stand between Corey Richards (66) and Nash - perhaps the most rotund first-class cricketer in Australia today - who belted three fours and two sixes in a 35-ball innings of 32.

What looked sure to be a formality for the Warriors began turning sour in the first over when Ryan Campbell's stumps were spreadeagled by Nash before a run had been scored. Simon Katich (5) was run out when a quick single to an innocuous misfield turned to disaster thanks to an underarm side-on direct hit by Richards. Damien Martyn fell to the first ball he faced, and when Mike Hussey (4) was trapped lbw it was 4/15.

It could have taken just one good partnership to turn the game back in WA's favour, but that one good partnership never came. When Tom Moody's grim 85- minute seventeen came to an end it was left to the erratic brilliance of Brendon Julian. When he holed out to Michael Bevan at long-off attempting his second six of the innings, the unbelievable started to have the feel of reality.

This was a match the Blues did not deserve to win from the first hour of the first morning. Devoid of their six internationals who were busy annihilating the West Indies in Perth, NSW were 5/49 in their first innings after captain Shane Lee won the toss and decided to bat in overcast, humid conditions. It was an enterprising 87 from Brad Haddin, supported by Mark Higgs (34, amazingly his highest first-class score to date), who elevated the Blues' total to 226 all out late on Friday.

Jo Angel, Brendon Julian and Brad Oldroyd took three wickets apiece for the Warriors, who replied with a first innings total of 413. The highlight of the WA innings was a dashing 192-run third-wicket partnership between Simon Katich (117) and Damien Martyn (92). Katich's eleventh first-class century was a knock of the highest calibre, taking full advantage of some at times indifferent NSW bowling. Julian (76) dominated a 109-run eighth-wicket partnership with Jo Angel (37) that elevated the Warriors total to a point where an innings victory seemed highly achievable.

In the NSW second innings, a determined 92 by Greg Mail and an equally resolute 57 from Michael Bevan enabled the home side to make Western Australia bat a second time, but when they both departed on Sunday afternoon it appeared that the Blues' cause was lost. Few could have predicted what would happen on Monday.

The outright win means that New South Wales are level on the top of the Pura Cup ladder with Queensland (who drew with Victoria on Saturday) on 14 points from four games. WA did not leave North Sydney Oval empty-handed, taking two points for the first-innings lead, but they are now equal last on 4 pts with Tasmania after South Australia defeated the Tigers at Adelaide Oval today.