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Final, Perth, March 31 - April 04, 2022, Sheffield Shield
386 & 400/7d

Match drawn

Player Of The Match
85 & 123

Shield final: Bancroft's unbeaten century puts WA in control

Bancroft shared a WA Shield final record 188-run stand with Whiteman, who made 85

Alex Malcolm
Alex Malcolm
Cameron Bancroft celebrates his century  •  Getty Images

Cameron Bancroft celebrates his century  •  Getty Images

Western Australia 290 for 3 (Bancroft 135*, Whiteman 85) against Victoria
Western Australia took a major step towards ending their 23-year Sheffield Shield title drought with Cameron Bancroft's superb century putting them in a strong position on the opening day of the final against Victoria at the WACA ground in Perth.
Bancroft posted his 15th Shield century and his first in a final, batting the entire day to finish 135 not out from 259 balls with 16 boundaries as WA racked up 290 for 3 at stumps.
Having been sent into bat, Bancroft and Sam Whiteman, who made a classy 85, set a new record opening stand for WA in Shield finals, putting together 188 to surpass the previous mark of 155 set by Michael Hussey and Ryan Campbell in the last Shield final held at the WACA ground in 1997-98. It was also Bancroft and Whiteman's sixth century stand together in Shield cricket.
Victoria had little joy except for a late breakthrough in the final over, with Hilton Cartwright slashing the second last ball of the day from Will Sutherland to gully where he was brilliantly caught by Jono Merlo.
Captain Peter Handscomb had no hesitation in bowling after the coin fell his way, perhaps spooked after seeing a very similar-looking pitch to the one that his side had been sent in on last week only to lose by an innings and 51 runs.
But it turned into a lovely batting track for Bancroft and Whiteman.
Bancroft, 29, showed why he was once Australia's first-choice Test opener with one of his best Shield centuries. His often scrutinised balance and timing were on-song from ball one as Victoria's quicks erred far too full to him in the opening session. He caressed a bevy of drives through the covers and down the ground.
Whiteman was less fluent in the first hour and a half, having been tied down by the metronomic Scott Boland from around the wicket. Bancroft's rhythm took the pressure off his partner as he reached his half-century off 83 balls with a sublime drive straight of mid-off.
Whiteman's innings was sparked when Merlo's medium pace was introduced. He dropped short twice in two balls, and the left-hander unfurled two dismissive pull shots over forward square.
WA reached 99 without loss at lunch, with Victoria managing just seven maidens in 29 overs in the first session as the ball didn't swing or seam anywhere near as much as expected.
Victoria created some half chances after lunch as they stemmed the scoring for a period. Boland was particularly unlucky in the second over after the break. He found Whiteman's outside edge with a superb delivery that zipped across the left-hander, but it somehow didn't carry to wicketkeeper Sam Harper.
Whiteman reached a patient half-century from 122 balls with nine fours but nearly ran himself out shortly after, taking on Merlo at midwicket for a sharp single, and he was fortunate the throw just missed. Bancroft hardly played a false shot, but he did slice Sutherland just high and wide of gully on 71.
The pair cruised past 150 in the 47th over and past Hussey and Campbell's record of 155. They had sights on a double century stand before Whiteman finally fell for 85 on the stroke of tea. He sliced Boland to gully attempting a square drive, and Sutherland took an excellent catch. Boland might have been fortunate not to have been called for a no-ball as replays showed he overstepped, however, the third umpire can only adjudicate on catches, run-outs and stumpings in this final with the limited technology available.
Bancroft reached his century shortly after tea with a neat leg glance despite Victoria trying to set up a legside trap. He nicked a ball in the next over through a vacant second slip but continued on his dominance thereafter.
Victoria were able to slow the game for a period in the first hour of the final session via their two spinners Jon Holland and Matt Short. Holland only bowled three overs in the first 48 of the day. Short was introduced with the arrival of the left-handed Shaun Marsh, and it was an inspired move by Handscomb. Marsh ran past one, beaten by clever flight, turn and bounce to be stumped by a mile for just 12.
The spinners then tied down Bancroft and Cartwright as the game stalled before the second new ball. WA needed to be careful not to waste the start they had made given that first-innings bonus points could decide the final in case of a drawn match, with 0.01 of a point given for every run past 200 and 0.1 for every wicket taken in the first 100 overs of the first two innings of the match.
WA were 250 for 2 when the second new ball was taken but Cartwright clattered 15 from Boland's first over with the new ball to reassert their authority on the day.
They scored 40 in 10 overs, but Cartwright will rue his false stroke right on stumps as he fell for 41 and left nightwatchman Matt Kelly one ball to face, which he survived.

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo

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