Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Melbourne
The Sheffield Shield title went to New South Wales after the season was cancelled following round nine due to the coronavirus and it brings the curtain down on the Australian season. Who made our Sheffield Shield team of the year?
Joe Burns, Queensland (515 runs at 51.50)
Burns only played six of the nine matches due to Test duty but was remarkably consistent given he played five of the six on the typically bowler-friendly Gabba surface. Only once did he fail to reach double-figures and he made three half-centuries and 135 in the fourth innings against Victoria to give Queensland a chance at a remarkable victory.
Daniel Hughes, New South Wales (665 runs at 44.33)
The left-hander had another consistent season for the eventual champions. He made a critical 66 not out to guide the Blues home in a nervy fourth-innings chase against Queensland at the start of the season and also made two half-centuries in a win over Western Australia plus twin hundreds against South Australia. He had a very similar year to South Australia opener Jake Weatherald but was a fraction more consistent. Weatherald mixed two big hundreds with six single-figure scores compared to Hughes' four.
Nic Maddinson, Victoria (780 runs at 86.66)
Maddinson put together another phenomenal season for Victoria passing 50 in seven of his 10 innings including two centuries. He made a career-best 224 in the opening round of the season and never looked back. Even after a dismal BBL season, he was able to leave that behind and help drag Victoria into finals contention after they were winless at Christmas. He made scores of 95, 105*, 66 and 66 in wins over New South Wales and South Australia and was rewarded with Australia A selection for the second time this summer. He also made runs in three different positions for Victoria, opening, at No.3 and No.5.
Shaun Marsh, Western Australia (724 runs at 48.26)
Marsh started the Shield season in vintage touch with a double century against Victoria and an unbeaten hundred against South Australia. His form fell away a touch after the BBL where he was coming off a hamstring injury. He registered three ducks in a row including a pair against Tasmania, but his overall season at No. 3 for Western Australia was impressive as he passed 50 five times, the majority of which were scored as acting captain.
Moises Henriques, New South Wales (512 runs at 51.20)
Henriques was selected to captain Australia A and remains in calculations for Australia's Test tour of Bangladesh (if it goes ahead) after an excellent Shield campaign where he helped the Blues to the title. He made two centuries and a 91. His 116 against Queensland earned him player of the match honours while he had two mammoth partnerships with Steve Smith in wins over Tasmania and Western Australia. He only bowled 20 overs for the season but he did pick up two wickets. Henriques squeezed out Tom Cooper who was the competition's second-leading scorer. Cooper is unfortunate to miss out but he scored 271 not out in a farcical draw with Victoria where just 12 wickets fell in two innings over four days but averaged 35.28 in his other 14 innings for the season.
Cameron Green, Western Australia (699 runs at 63.54)
The 20-year-old allrounder was unable to bowl for most of the season but finished as Western Australia's most reliable specialist batsman. His three centuries all came with WA under immense pressure and his consistency across the season in an inconsistent team was remarkable. His best came against Queensland at the Gabba where he made 87 not out and 121 not out to single-handedly save his side from defeat. Green and Doug Walters are the only two players in Sheffield Shield history to have scored three centuries and have two five-wicket hauls before turning 21.
Tim Paine, Tasmania (313 runs at 39.12 and 29 dismissals; capt & wk)
The wicketkeeper's role was the toughest to fill. Alex Carey and Seb Gotch could both make cases having made two centuries each but they only played six games between them. Gotch made two centuries in two games, including a player of the match performance against Queensland, but unfortunately missed the other seven through injury. Jimmy Peirson completed 40 dismissals at the bowler-friendly Gabba but made just one fifty and averaged 29.75. Paine and Peter Nevill had the dual role of keeping and captaining and Nevill led New South Wales to the title, but Paine did have a good year making his second career Shield century against Western Australia in Perth. He also made a half-century on a green seamer at the Gabba and 48 not out in a fourth innings chase to beat WA by five wickets in Hobart. Nevill had a similar output with the bat (411 runs at 37.36) making three half-centuries but benefitted from better batting conditions in Sydney and better platforms from his top order. Paine completed 29 dismissals in 12 innings for the season.
Michael Neser, Queensland (33 wickets at 17.30)
Neser had another phenomenal season despite playing only six games due to Australia A duty. He went wicketless just twice in 12 innings and took a five-wicket haul and three four-wicket hauls. He is a beneficiary of the seamer-friendly conditions at the Gabba but of the 10 bowlers who took 25 wickets or more this season, he had the best average (17.30) and strike-rate (43.3) by some margin.
Peter Siddle, Victoria (32 wickets at 19.87)
Siddle is an ageless wonder. After retiring from international cricket he was supposed to step back into a support role for Victoria's developing quicks but instead almost carried his state to a Shield final after they were last at Christmas. Siddle was ultra-consistent and had the best economy rate (2.28) of the top 20 wicket-takers in the competition. His best performance came in the key victory over New South Wales after the BBL when he took 5 for 49 in the fourth innings as the Blues tried to save the game.
Cameron Gannon, Queensland (38 wickets at 20.92)
Gannon enjoyed his best season in the Sheffield Shield and finished as the leading wicket-taker with 38. Gannon took a five-wicket haul and four four-wicket hauls and only went wicket-less twice for the season. He took eight wickets for the match against Western Australia. He also made a career-best 45 as a night-watchman against Victoria at the MCG that was critical in Queensland's thrilling win.
Wes Agar, South Australia (33 wickets at 24.21)
Agar was named Bradman Young Cricketer of the Year during an excellent Shield season for South Australia. His best performance came against Tasmania in South Australia's first Shield victory in over two seasons when he took eight wickets including a career-best 5 for 53 and was named player of the match. He took five crucial wickets across two innings in the Redbacks' second victory of the season again Western Australia. He also took a four-wicket haul against Queensland on debut, ripping through a Test-quality top order.
New South Wales
Marsh Sheffield Shield