New South Wales 283 (Abbott 66, Nevill 59, Swepson 5-97) and 206 for 9 (Solway 52, Swepson 5-74) beat Queensland 298 (Labuschagne 117, Starc 4-76) and 190 (Copeland 5-17) by one wicket
Sean Abbott held his nerve to deliver victory for New South Wales over Queensland despite the history-making efforts of Mitchell Swepson in a thrilling conclusion to the Sheffield Shield match at Karen Rolton Oval in Adelaide.
On a final day surface that offered assistance to spin but little for the pacemen, the Blues appeared to be striding comfortably towards victory until a rush of wickets after lunch tilted the contest towards Queensland, whereupon Abbott and Nathan Lyon were required to add 19 more runs for the win.
They made it as far as 18, tying the scores, before Abbott's attempt at a winning hit off Swepson was brilliantly saved by Michael Neser at mid-off, resulting in a run out after Lyon had taken off reflexively from the non-striker's end. The last man Harry Conway was left to survive the remainder of Swepson's over, before Abbott swatted a shortish delivery from Marnus Labuschagne just over mid-on for the winning run.
Neser had previously conceded eight runs from his last over of the match, as the Bulls' persistence with a short ball attack from around the wicket ultimately proved costly, even if it had been used to successfully unsettle and then dismiss Daniel Solway to help swing momentum back Queensland's way. Swepson's match figures of 10 for 171 were a neat encapsulation of the huge strides he has made as a bowler in recent times: he now has 15 wickets in two Shield games this season, after taking 14 in six games last summer.
Queensland captain Usman Khawaja had sprung something of a surprise when he called upon Matt Renshaw's offspin in the first over of the final morning, albeit only to allow Swepson to change ends and then also swing Neser around. This tinkering did not fluster Solway or Daniel Hughes, and if anything they were more comfortable than Queensland's bowlers in the early exchanges, whittling the target down below 100.
Swepson, who struggled early on to hit the footmarks that promised so much purchase for him, eventually returned to the end from which he had taken all his six wickets in the match so far, and in his first over bowling around the wicket to Hughes, had one vehement lbw appeal denied before clean bowling the left-hander through the gate from the rough two balls later.
New South Wales' captain Peter Nevill brought a positive mindset to the middle and was quickly knocking runs off the required tally to help ease some of the pressure being applied to Solway. As the afternoon session began, Nevill appeared eager to carry on finding ways to score, but Solway was corralled by short balls and received one painful blow on the shoulder or neck that required medical attention.
Queensland only had another 43 runs to play with when Nevill tried to force a Swepson leg break off the back foot and edged to slip, where Khawaja fumbled but saw the rebound land safely in the hands of Renshaw at second slip: a reward to the captain for posting one.
Next over Solway dragged a Neser bouncer onto the stumps via glove or body, and neither Mitchell Starc or Trent Copeland could make much of Swepson, who tossed a wrong'un or top spinner into the footmarks to coax a miscue from Starc to mid-off, then found enough spin on an ideal line to draw a Copeland edge to slip where, this time, Khawaja held cleanly.
At this point the Bulls appeared the more likely winners for the first time all day, but Neser's persistence with the short stuff allowed Lyon to hook and then cut a couple of pivotal boundaries when a stump to stump approach might have threatened more modes of dismissal. Abbott's contribution, after 66 in the first innings and a quartet of wickets, underlined his increasing standing as a cricketer of real substance.
As the Blues celebrated their first win of the season, the final result was a frustrating one for Swepson, who won the match award and also the consolation of taking the first 10-wicket match haul by a Queensland leg spinner since 1978-79. The man who claimed it, Cricket Australia's selection chairman Trevor Hohns, was fittingly looking on from the stands.