Victoria seal back-to-back Sheffield Shield titles
Victoria wasted little time rumbling to their second consecutive Sheffield Shield title and 30th overall, capitalising on a weakened South Australia attack to wrap up the final in little more than an hour on the last day of the final at Glenelg Oval
Victoria 399 (Handscomb 112, Dean 111, White 78, Worrall 6-96) and 3 for 196 (Stoinis 72, Handscomb 61*, Dean 54) beat South Australia 340 (Ross 72, Weatherald 66, Carey 50, Tremain 3-73, Holland 3-86) and 251 (Weatherald 96, Ross 71, Holland 5-76) by 7 wickets Scorecard
A season of youthful batsmanship was fittingly sealed by Peter Handscomb and Marcus Stoinis as Victoria wasted little time rumbling to their second consecutive Sheffield Shield title and 30th overall.
Capitalising on a weakened South Australia attack to wrap up the final in little more than an hour on the last day of the final at Glenelg Oval, Stoinis and Handscomb played with freedom in sight of the competition finish line, completing a match in which youthful batting talent was writ large across the five days - Cameron White the only batsman over the age of 30 to make a significant score.
Centuries for Handscomb and Travis Dean, alongside strong contributions from Jake Weatherald, Alex Ross and Alex Carey, maintained a telling tale of 2015-16, namely the advance of a new generation to the front rank of Shield batsmen. Of the top 10 run-makers in the competition, only George Bailey was into his 30s, a marked contrast to numerous recent summers when the likes of Ricky Ponting, Chris Rogers, Adam Voges and Michael Klinger were dominant.
Generational change is working its way through Australian cricket, and the selectors now have plenty of new names arrayed before them. Victoria's captain Matthew Wade, in toasting his second consecutive title, was as pleased for the younger members of his team as he was for the coach David Saker, finally part of a shield-winning combination after missing out as a player for Victoria and Tasmania.
"The opportunity to win four Shields, and to captain a back-to-back Shield is as good as it gets really," Wade said. "I'm as proud as I've ever been as a captain and of the young players who have come in and taken first-class cricket by storm.
"Travis Dean, Peter Handscomb, Marcus Stoinis, over the last three years they've come in and dominated in Shield cricket and then we've got Boland and Tremain who have stepped up terrifically well for us in the last 12 months. It's an honour to play in another Shield.
"I was lucky enough to play with and against Sakes as a young kid in Tassie so we already had a good relationship coming into this year. It's been a big driver for us to get Holland, Tremain and Dean their first Shield and David Saker, who's been around the game for 20 years, has never won a Shield so to get him a medal is a big honour."
Stoinis struck three consecutive sixes to go beyond his half-century, and while he was dismissed with only a handful of runs required, Handscomb laced a boundary behind point to seal the win and earn a warm embrace from his captain Matthew Wade.
The Redbacks were limited in their bowling options, having lost Chadd Sayers due to an ankle problem. They also were unable to call upon the swing bowling of a sore Daniel Worrall on the final morning, leaving Joe Mennie and Eliot Opie to be partnered by the part-time spin of the captain Travis Head. Victoria's win means South Australia have now gone 20 seasons without winning the title, and Head described a feeling of pride without satisfaction.
"Proud, not satisfied, we just spoke about that in the change rooms just then," Head said. "Last year we won one Matador game and we went nowhere in the Shield. This year to play the brand of cricket we did in the Matador, I think we played a beautiful game of cricket in the Matador Cup and I thought throughout the Shield season, in moments, one thought the best brand of cricket in the season.
"I think we got the most bonus points which showed that we played the right way. Moving forward if we get more consistent and play that way, I think we can be pretty scary. It's been a three-year progress with Jamie [Siddons, the coach], he's come in year one and we've played in two finals. If we look at in honestly and play more consistent that way, it's going to be scary because we've got ourselves in two finals and there are probably a few blokes in the change rooms who are really disappointed with their seasons.
"The young blokes that came in stepped up and that's what we looked for. I think in the past couple of years we probably haven't had the depth and there's been six batters rotate through the season and you know that your spot's pretty safe. At the moment we've got blokes in grade cricket who are making a lot of runs and they're coming in and they're performing. It's fantastic to see."
Victoria's win was marred by a ball tampering offence committed by the bowling coach Mick Lewis, and they were also helped earlier in the season when handed six points due to an unfit outfield at the SCG. Wade and his team will waste little time thinking about those episodes in their moment of victory.
"I know that it was all over the South Australian papers today but not really," he said. "We can't control that, we were on the ground, it's an unfortunate incident but when I look back over my career I'm not going to be thinking about Micky Lewis in the gutter. I'll be thinking about the Shield that we just won."