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March 23, 2014
New South Wales 447 and 2 for 46 lead Western Australia 180 (M Marsh 92*, Hazlewood 6-50) by 313 runs
Josh Hazlewood's six-wicket haul kept New South Wales firmly in control of the Sheffield Shield final, despite Mitchell Marsh's efforts to drag Western Australia back into the contest with an unbeaten 92. By the close of the third day's play, New South Wales were 2 for 46 in their second innings, with Steven Smith on 21 and Ben Rohrer on 24, and the 313-run advantage was a pleasing buffer for a side needing only to draw the match to lift the Shield.
Two wickets in the first two overs gave Western Australia a slight hope of running through the Blues and setting themselves a target, albeit a hefty one, but Smith and Rohrer steadied after Jason Behrendorff trapped Ryan Carters lbw first ball and Nic Maddinson edged Ryan Duffield to second slip. The innings began with the Warriors needing a cricketing miracle after only three of their batsmen reached double figures in their total of 180.
Most of the day was a grind for the players and spectators as Western Australia tried to recover from their overnight total of 4 for 15. That became 5 for 23 early in the day when the nightwatchman Duffield edged behind off Hazlewood but the Marsh brothers made life a little tougher for the New South Wales attack, although notably their occupation of the crease did not hurt the Blues significantly on the scorecard.
Western Australia needed victory to win the Sheffield Shield but Shaun Marsh and Mitchell Marsh decided the best way forward was to build the runs slowly, and dot balls and maidens piled up during their 98-run partnership which took 43.5 overs. The occasional half chance was all that was offered until Shaun Marsh, on 40, was lbw from his 161st delivery when Moises Henriques found some reverse swing.
Ironically given the lack of scoring intent, Mitchell Marsh nearly fell to a run-out chance in the last over before tea when a mix-up with his new partner Sam Whiteman left Marsh stranded in the middle of the pitch when Carters failed to collect a throw cleanly at the bowler's end. Marsh survived to push on after the break but the wickets began to fall at the other end.
Hazlewood completed his maiden five-wicket haul in a first-class match when he pushed one across Whiteman, who on 12 edged behind to Peter Nevill; despite having been part of a Test squad before, Hazlewood's best first-class bowling before this was 4 for 14. He bowled with good pace and found some swing and made it six wickets when Ashton Agar's agonising 2 from 32 ended with a wild slash outside off that was snapped up by the wicketkeeper.
Steve O'Keefe chipped in for his first wicket when Behrendorff pushed at a ball that spun away just enough and was caught behind by Nevill, and Mitchell Marsh decided his tempo had to lift if he had any chance of reaching a century. A cleanly struck six down the ground got him close but he was left stuck on 92 when Trent Copeland finished off the innings by bowling the No.11 Michael Hogan for a duck.
It was fitting that Copeland managed to pick up a wicket, for his accurate and miserly work was key to building the pressure that brought wickets at the other end for much of the innings. Hazlewood was the man who claimed the rewards with 6 for 50 but it was a strong bowling performance all round from the Blues. And it moved them one step closer to their first Shield title for six seasons.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
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But you can't expect a turnaround unless pitches, umpiring and practice facilities are simultaneously improved