NSW v WA, Sheffield Shield final, Canberra, 5th day March 25, 2014

NSW claim Shield after Smith ton


New South Wales 447 (Henriques 140, Smith 75, Carters 72, Behrendorff 4-95) and 4 for 197 (Smith 103*, Patterson 52) drew with Western Australia 180 (Marsh 92, Hazlewood 6-50)

If the Sheffield Shield final petered out inevitably to a dull draw in front of a small gathering of spectators at Manuka Oval, then there was no fizz lacking in the celebrations of a New South Wales team toasting their first domestic title since 2008.

Led ably by the increasingly mature Steven Smith, the Blues were not in much danger of defeat from the time the Man of the Match Moises Henriques shepherded the tail well beyond 400. Rain on day four settled the issue after Western Australia's reply had been throttled by Josh Hazlewood's pace and movement.

But it was highly appropriate that the final day had a Smith hundred as its centrepiece, for his batting and leadership has been arguably the most promising single theme of the summer for Australian cricket. The redemptive narrative of Test match success against England and South Africa has been accompanied by the emergence of Smith as a young leader and top class batsman, rather vindicating the national coach Darren Lehmann's assertion at the outset of the summer that the country's next captain "will find us".

Looking back on a summer of enormous riches, Smith confessed to living out a hatful of his dreams in the space of six months. That he had not taken part in a Shield final before only underlined how thick and fast Smith's wishes have been fulfilled over the course of the season.

"It's very special, this is the first Shield final I've been a part of and to win the Shield it's just been an amazing 12 months for me and the whole thing's still kind of a blur," he said. "Everything's been so amazing, dreams have come true. To win an Ashes series, win an away series with Australia and then to back it up with the Sheffield Shield it's very, very special."

Smith's front foot play was cause for plenty of admiration from the national selector John Inverarity, who watched the 24-year-old split the WA field repeatedly and make light work of a slow and now ageing pitch that made scoring a difficult task throughout.

The trio of strokes that took Smith from 89 to three figures summed up much about his talent. He lofted an audacious drive for six down the ground, danced into a flick to the straight midwicket boundary, then glanced deftly fine to register his fifth hundred of the season. In receipt of this punishment was Ashton Agar, who could do worse than look at Smith's career arc as inspiration for how to move beyond a precocious beginning into a pattern of sustained performance.

Australia's tradition of ending the Shield with a competition final stretches back to 1983 when these two sides met in a fractious encounter at the WACA Ground. It is a concept open to some exploitation, particularly that of the home side needing only a draw to win the title. But as the ICC found so vexing in their failed attempts to schedule a World Test Championship, one-off fixtures will always have certain pitfalls.

"I think you should have an advantage for coming first if you're going to have a final," Smith said of a match that was called off by the mutual agreement of the captains at 1.50pm on the final afternoon. "If they go down that road I think that's the best way to do it."

Henriques was even more adamant about keeping the show-piece match, which he had termed the most important of his career. Asked about the "hollow" conclusion, he offered a passionate retort. "I don't know where you're describing this hollow feeling from because it doesn't feel hollow within me," he said.

"It's very special, it's not just about the final. We earned this home final and played the way we did, we dictated the whole game, we outplayed them every day of this fixture, so there's no hollow feelings here. I can't put it down in words to be completely honest, I'm still quite speechless and haven't even had a beer touch my lips yet, so I'm verymuch looking forward to getting in the change rooms."

With no option but to play things out until Smith offered his hand in consolation, the Warriors were left forlorn, their own 15-year wait for another Shield title destined to go on. Only Marcus North's dismissal of Kurtis Patterson drew brief smiles from the WA collective, while the wicketkeeper Sam Whiteman grimaced when a rare failure to glove the ball cleanly stung his fingers.

Their captain Adam Voges observed the scene with a heavy heart, as all the strides made by WA this season under the tutelage of Justin Langer came to nothing. But he also retained some measure of hope, exhorting his men to use these memories next summer "We've worked our guts out to get here, unfortunately it hasn't been the five days we hoped for," he said. "But we'll use that to drive us, and make sure we're back better next season."

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

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  • Dummy4 on March 27, 2014, 8:59 GMT

    @Meety, I agree with all of that. Gotta say the guy I think is going to go places is Lynn. He looks the real deal to me. Confident, consistent and shots all around the wicket, once he's learned his game inside out he is going to be a long term no. 4 or 5 for us I reckon. Along with Smith he is the future of our middle order. I also think Henriques and Maxy are looking good for a no.6 slot. The pressures of international cricket does not get to them at all, it's just a matter of them lifting their game now, I think. Still not a no.3 in sight, can't have everything I guess, but I would give Smith a run at it if he's keen!

    Like you say, there is an enormous amount of talent, but it is not always going to come to fruition, for whatever reason but at least there is enough there to make for exciting times.

  • Andrew on March 27, 2014, 7:28 GMT

    @Rowayton on (March 27, 2014, 5:15 GMT), yeah it was harsh of me to exclude Cooper from an honorable mention. I mentioned the other 2 (Neville & Pomersbach) because they actually have a career ave that rounds up to 40. As for Botha, I bagged the decision to bring him over - but at the end of the day he has been a major reason for a massive turnaround in his time at SA. My main gist though - was that all the states have talent, but few are cashing in on it. Take Maddinson, so many have him earmarked for the Test team, but whilst he played some top class knocks, he was average this year & his career ave is mediocre. We have to stop blowing wind up the preverbials & stick with actual wickets & runs. Hazlewood was another who's reputation (in FC cricket) was built on short form & not much else.... until now. IMO - its one thing to say a bloke has talent, (read Marsh bros), but until they deliver consistently - they are no better than a Forrest-like journeyman.

  • David on March 27, 2014, 5:15 GMT

    Interesting lists Meety. I think another honourable batting mention has to go to that well-known Dutchman Tom Cooper, whose FC average has now risen to the 38s, and who scored a lot this season. I have some concerns about Nevill - the bowelrs seem to be of the view that he has problems with the short stuff. And one reason Botha was up the top of the wicket takers is because he bowled more balls than anyone else - nice to be captain, eh?

  • Andrew on March 27, 2014, 0:44 GMT

    Further to my point about batting, on the bowling list, whilst we have a lot more talent in bowling than batting - over the course of the Shield season Botha (a FC journeyman) - came 6th on the list, & James Hopes - a 35yo old nearly 4yrs past his prime & with stress fractures in his back came 3rd on the wicket takers list. Of course the greatest conundrum is - the bloke who is not rated by the NSP - SO'K tops the chart - enuff said!

  • Andrew on March 27, 2014, 0:37 GMT

    @Moppa on (March 26, 2014, 10:33 GMT) - totally agree. It is one thing to have young talent in the team, but wickets & runs are what counts. That is not directly squared at WA alone. In terms of batting, if you troll through the leading run-scorers, there are very few batsmen who had a great shield season AND have a good CAREER average (good being above 40). Contenders are 1. North 63 & 42, 2. Voges 55 & 42, 3. White 45 & 40, 4. Smith 79 & 47, 5. Hughes 54 & 45, 6. Lynn 58 & 45, 7. Burns 47 & 41, 8. Khawaja 50 & 41, 9. Maxwell 45 & 41, 10. Rogers 50 & 50. That was in descending order of runs scored in the Shield. Honorable mention to Neville & Pomersbach who were borderline. 4 of the 10 are seasoned vets (North, Voges, White & Rogers), 2 have been around a while in Hughes & Khawaja. IMO - only Smith, Burns Lynn & Maxwell excite me, although Hughes & Khawaja are not write-offs. All the other "talent" need to deliver, because they are still short of what we need.

  • Peter on March 26, 2014, 22:57 GMT

    @Meety. Well said. Agree with Marsh's responsible innings, he looks like he has turned the corner. I wouldn't look at this current FC average as it is too weighted with past season's disasters, same for MoHen. His average isn't spectacular but the reading of both his bowling and batting for the past few seasons is sensational. From what I have seen of Whiteman, this guy seems the real deal for the next national keeper. His second season will determine his future I would suggest. Agar's efforts this season didn't make fort good reading, but it was a season he had to have to gain as much experience as he can for his future. He is a much better bowler than these figures suggest so hopefully he can call on his experiences this season. SOK, for all his form this season, I am afraid will again be overlooked by the NSP. That is one I just cannot fathom.

  • Andrew on March 26, 2014, 10:41 GMT

    Reality is, if it wasn't for the rain, NSW would very likely have won this match by a big margin. So the relevance of a Final shouldn't be judged on the fact this was a draw. Regarding Smith, all the relevant stuff has been said. He has silenced a plethora of knockers. Real happy to see MMarsh collect a well compiled 90 odd, hopefully he can deliver more than his brother!

  • Guy on March 26, 2014, 10:33 GMT

    @xtrafalgarx, I'm with @Mitty2 - lots of young players, yes, but mostly struggling. Of those players you mention, only Whiteman and Behrendorff really contributed to WA getting to the Shield final. The rest struggled and were carried by the old guys - North, Voges, Hogan, S.Marsh etc. They have potential, but a long way from proven to the point where you start talking about a powerhouse team. Here's Bancroft's finish to the season: 17, 10, 0, 0, 0, 16, 4, 17, 0. Here's Harris: 20, 18, 49, 2, 0, 4, 8, 36, 0. And Agar averaged about 55 per wicket across 11 games. Mitch Marsh looked great in the Shield final but his FC batting average is still comfortably the wrong side of 30.

  • Tony on March 26, 2014, 8:30 GMT

    For those bagging WA, they obviously did enough to earn their spot in the final so you can all dry your eyes and get over it. NSW were too good in the final - WA are a young side and will be better for the experience.

  • Dummy4 on March 26, 2014, 6:43 GMT

    I just wonder if we'll see Smith get a run at 3 later this year against Pakistan? After Clarke he is looking very much the best allround batsman we have right now, if not the best as he's certainl a better player of short stuff than the captain. It'd be great to plug that hole.

    Well done the blues, the batting is still a bit thin when the better players are on Aus duties but they could field two bowling line-ups quite easily and as we all know it's the bowling that wins you the trophies.

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