New South Wales v Tasmania, Ryobi One-day Cup, Sydney September 29, 2013

NSW thump Tasmania on sluggish surface


New South Wales 9 for 178 (Smith 70, Laughlin 3-23) beat Tasmania 97 (Henriques 4-17) by 81 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

At the New South Wales season launch a few days before this match, Michael Clarke spoke at some length about how Australian cricket's revival would begin at domestic level with the preparation of better pitches. Fairer surfaces, Clarke reckoned, would encourage batsmen to play their shots and build their confidence, while forcing bowlers to redouble their skill and stamina in order to earn wickets.

This was all fair enough in theory, but Clarke's enthusiastic promise that pitches for 2013-14 would be better did not appear to have reached Bankstown Oval in time for the start of the domestic limited-overs tournament. The turf proved to be more pudding than pitch, slow, low and variable enough to prevent any batsman from trusting it for long. Only an innings of patience, poise and the occasional flourish by the rapidly maturing Steve Smith allowed NSW to scramble as many as 178. But that would prove far too many for Tasmania, their struggles epitomised by Ed Cowan, who spent 50 painstaking balls over 25 before slicing the miserly mediums of Moises Henriques to David Warner at point amid a collapse of 4 for 6.

Smith felt no need to express any fondness for the surface despite his tidy score and the Blues' victory, while the Tasmania captain George Bailey argued the strip had prevented two strong teams from demonstrating their capabilities to each other, and to those watching the first match of the domestic season.

"It's certainly no excuse for the way we played," Bailey said. "But when you've got two teams of the calibre we do today and some of the shot-making of Smith, Warner, Doolan and you've got four of the best fast bowlers in the country, two of the best spinners in the country, you'd probably like a wicket that gives a little more chance for both teams to show their skills. That's what you get and full credit to NSW, they adapted well, particularly Smithy … that was a really smart innings on that wicket."

It was the kind of strip made for Henriques' niggardly art, and, for the Tigers, Ben Laughlin was similarly fruitful in pursuing a tight line, punctuated by changes of pace. With apologies to both men, theirs is not a skill to set pulses racing. While the Blues will be happy to begin their season as winners under the captaincy of Brad Haddin and the management of Trevor Bayliss, both reinstated to roles they previously held, it was a drab way to begin the domestic season. That it was the first domestic fixture televised on a free-to-air network for seven years only enhanced the sense of opportunity missed.

Not that the coverage afforded by Channel Nine, in a deal with Cricket Australia that has the governing body covering outside broadcast costs, was comprehensively thorough. The usual Nine gizmos were absent, while only rudimentary replays were available, contributing to the wicket of Ben Rohrer when no evidence could be found to contradict the on-field umpires' notion that he had touched a full Laughlin ball behind. Rohrer walked off shaking his head; 819 spectators and numerous television viewers doubtless did the same.

Warner, who had holidayed in Las Vegas prior to the fixture while ruminating on his loss of an Australia ODI place, looked far from settled in his brief stay, peering suspiciously at the pitch before snicking the debutant left-armer Sam Rainbird to second slip. Though delivered on the right line, the ball did precious little in the air or off the pitch. Wickets fell regularly from that point, leaving Smith to hold the innings together with a display that maintained the upward trend he established in India and England earlier in the year.

There were moments of dash, whether a front-foot pull shot from Rainbird or a flicked six off Xavier Doherty, but also a healthy sense of what could not be attempted in the prevailing conditions. It was a surprise when he misjudged Doherty from over the wicket and was bowled behind his pads by a full ball the spun fractionally out of the footmarks. Nonetheless, Smith's innings would be the largest of the match by a distance, and the most decisive.

Tasmania's pursuit began shakily when Mark Cosgrove punched Josh Hazlewood to Warner, but Cowan and Alex Doolan briefly gave the impression of a serious pursuit while adding a careful 47. However they were separated when Doolan ran with his straight drive only to be sent back by Cowan, leaving Nathan Lyon to fire in a return to Brad Haddin over the stumps on his Blues debut after moving from South Australia. Bailey punched a return catch to Gurinder Sandhu, and Cowan was regrettably involved in another run out when the alert Warner threw down the stumps to evict Jon Wells.

Three runs later Cowan was himself dismissed, setting the Tigers on the path to ruin. Lyon dropped onto a length and spun the ball as NSW completed mopping up operations, his offbreak through the gate of Ben Hilfenhaus good enough to have dismissed a far more accomplished batsman.

Henriques completed the win by claiming his fourth victim, leaving the visitors to glare at a pitch they are likely to battle again on Tuesday, when they return to Bankstown to face Victoria.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on October 3, 2013, 13:53 GMT

    Steve Smith has started to really shine lately, i have seen potential along time ago when he was just a cricket freak, like many Aussie talented young cricketers who was given a chance to see if they could make it in the big league, Hughes is one of them, they both had good and bad performance but what builds character is how they react, Smith Usman and Hughes is out top 3 batsman who need a big big year, im expecting Maddinson to knock on CA doors really really hard this year, he and Hughes will eventually open the batting in the near future, at the moment i cant see why we haven't tried Voges yet, he would make a perfect middle order batsmen.

  • rob on October 1, 2013, 0:24 GMT

    @ Bonehead_maz "Smith really is starting to have the bearing of a superior player" ... yes mate. Ain't it grand .. He looks focussed and polished. I'll probably end up eating these words, but I do believe he is starting to fill up the gaping hole that was created when M Hussey departed.

    From a national point of view I'm hoping that if Smith can continue to blossom it will inspire some of his team mates to do the same. Clarke and Smith can't do it alone. We need at least 4 top batsmen to compete with the likes of SA, Eng and India.

  • James on September 30, 2013, 9:08 GMT

    @Gordon Booth, Are you sure mate? I live in WA and i got to see it on my Tv and all i got is a bunny ears antenna. It was on GEM, worked fine for me.

  • Dummy4 on September 30, 2013, 7:51 GMT

    At least some people got to see it,here in WA there was no coverage at all,foxtel or free to air TV.It's downright annoying when you turn on the tele and there's nothing but replays of the AFL GF,especially when you pay good money to have foxtel

  • wayne on September 30, 2013, 3:55 GMT

    Bonehead_maz, you make an excellent point about Smith: that youthful cockiness of his does seem to be maturing into the kind of self confidence that good players use to put their stamp on the game. I always have a waiver with Smith that he might start to find himself being found out by good bowlers, but he really is starting to look like the best of the new lot...

  • Mariam on September 30, 2013, 2:32 GMT

    SOK should have played, he is a good player in the shorter format

  • Peter on September 29, 2013, 21:07 GMT

    A pitch gets produced where batsmen, for once, have to show some real batmanship, show good technique & grit their way to a score & they complain? This is what will improve technique, not flat deck pitches that are cannon fodder for bowlers. Smith has put in the effort in to tighten up his technique & the results are there, where are the results for so so called flashy players?

  • Murray on September 29, 2013, 20:46 GMT

    What a horrible pitch :( . From rhythm and balance point of view, was surprised that Hazelwood seemed rustier than Bollinger or Hifenhaus, Lyon looked good (downright dangerous near the end) too. Smith really is starting to have the bearing of a superior player :).

  • Dummy4 on September 29, 2013, 14:06 GMT

    PFEL: O'Keefe doesn't have a great limited-overs record and his performance in his latest warm-up match wasn't impressive either. With Lyon the incumbent Australian Test spinner and available for NSW, it isn't surprising he was picked. I hope O'Keefe will be seen soon, though, as I agree he's one of the best spinners in Australia.

  • Patrick on September 29, 2013, 12:59 GMT

    What happened with Steve O'Keefe? He was skippering NSW last year and is one of the best players in the country, certainly the best spinner. Not sure if he is injured or dropped? Because if he was dropped for Lyon then that's just pathetic.

  • No featured comments at the moment.