Victoria has cemented its standing as the powerhouse of Australian domestic cricket by capping an outstanding season with back-to-back Sheffield Shield titles for the first time in three decades.
The Bushrangers thrashed Queensland by 457 runs in the final at the MCG by bowling the Bulls out for 182 in their second innings.
The Vics were assured of the title entering the fifth day given they only needed a draw and had set the visitors 640 to win, but Cameron White’s side was keen to better last season’s final, when the Bulls held out for a draw.
Leg spinner Bryce McGain (4 for 70) and paceman John Hastings (3 for 25) capped a great performance by Victoria, which was a precarious 6 for 75 on day one.
The Vics called on the mantra imposed by the late coach David Hookes by winning from any position, as during the match they fought back through Matthew Wade’s 96, took a first-innings lead of 48 runs and then batted Queensland out of the game.
Victoria’s title was its 28th overall and capped a superb season of dominance in what is regarded as the strongest domestic competition in the world.
The Vics reached the semi-finals of the Champions League in India last year, won the domestic Twenty20 title, dominated the Shield season, but lost the one-day final to Tasmania.
All that came despite regular absences of key players through injury, national call-ups and the retirements of Brad Hodge and Dirk Nannes from first-class ranks.
Given Hodge, Nannes, Peter Siddle, Chris Rogers and Clint McKay all watched the final from afar, White said the campaign highlighted Victoria’s depth of talent.
“It’s a very good effort, it shows the depth of the squad, the depth of the fast-bowling department and the skill of the batsmen,” he said.
“It’s a credit to the group that they’ve been able to start in September and hold their form the whole way through.
“[We had] a little bit of a down spot through a few one-day losses, but you look across the board and we’ve played a hell of a lot of games and we’ve won more than we’ve lost.”
White said Victoria’s strength was its evenness, as it got strong contributions from a large group.
David Hussey’s 168 in the second innings gave him a competition-high 970 runs, Damien Wright took 35 wickets in six games, Wade earned the man-of-the-match award in the final after a great season with gloves and bat, and all-rounder John Hastings and batsman Aaron Finch had breakthrough seasons.
Queensland’s defeat, which included a late collapse of 5 for 27, was the biggest in a fourth-innings run-chase in a Shield final, and skipper Chris Simpson was disappointed by the limited resistance.
“All year our heart and our determination has never been questioned, not that it was today, but we owed it to ourselves to bat the day out,” he said.
Simpson credited Wade for his vital innings, but rued dropped catches on day one and admitted his day-one decision to bowl leg spinner Cameron Boyce did not work, as it did not reap the wickets needed.