Recent Match Report – West Aust vs Tasmania Final 2023/24

Western Australia 325 for 8 (Whiteman 104, Connolly 73*, Cartwright 55, Short 50, Freeman 3-103) vs Tasmania

Captain Sam Whiteman stepped up in the absence of opening partner Cameron Bancroft before nerveless debutant Cooper Connolly halted Tasmania’s comeback late on day one of the Sheffield Shield final.

Western Australia reached stumps at 325 for 8 after being sent in on a green-tinged WACA surface. Whiteman made a fluent 104 and combined in a first-wicket century partnership with D’Arcy Short, who replaced Bancroft having not opened at the first-class level since late 2019.

Whiteman and Short’s efforts helped alleviate the big loss of Bancroft, who was ruled out of the contest with concussion after a cycling accident.

Connolly, WA’s other inclusion, helped lift WA to what appears a solid first innings with his first fifty in professional cricket. He finished on 73 from 79 balls and will eye a century on day two as Connolly’s fearless approach showed exactly why WA have been so keen to get him in the line-up. He was supposed to play the season-opener against Victoria before suffering a toe injury from a freak boat accident.

“If we got asked before the day that [at stumps] we’re still batting and over 300, you would take that nine times out of 10,” Whiteman said.

Tasmania toiled, but were inconsistent and relied on offspinner Jarrod Freeman, who produced sharp turn to finish with 3 for 103 from 24 overs.

“I think we really clawed our way back in the game,” Freeman said. “If we can go bang, bang tomorrow then I think we are on top.”

Without the formidable presence of Bancroft, Tasmania hoped to ruffle up WA’s rejigged top order but quicks Riley Meredith and Gabe Bell were inconsistent with the new ball.

Whiteman had cut a relaxed figure ahead of the match, underlining his experience on this stage, as the roles of the openers were reversed. He was composed at the crease and drove elegantly to rattle off 21 off 14 balls.

In a notable contrast, the innately attacking Short, who batted at No. 5 in his sole Shield match this season, was scratchy and made just 4 off his first 24 balls.

Surprisingly picked ahead of teenager Teague Wyllie because of his experience and aggressiveness, Short rode his luck after gloving down the leg side on 13 only for Beau Webster to have overstepped. Short had more fortune in the next over when he was dropped at first slip by Caleb Jewell after playing rashly at a wide Iain Carlisle delivery.

It proved costly for what appeared to be a jittery Tasmania hoping to end an 11-year Shield drought. Whiteman and Short batted through the opening session and shortly after lunch registered a rare century opening stand in the Shield this season.

Short had streakily edged a boundary to reach his fifty, but fell on the next delivery when he nicked off a good line and length delivery from Bell, who had finally found his radar.

Jayden Goodwin, who had been a contender to move up the order and replace Bancroft, fell cheaply to a Freeman delivery that straightened and caught the edge to first slip.

Hilton Cartwright has struggled in the Shield this season, but decided to end his slump by playing shots and he was particularly aggressive against Freeman. He combined well with Whiteman, who notched his second century in a Shield final much to the delight of his teammates in the terraces.

Whiteman looked impregnable before he fell lbw to the hardworking Carlisle as Tasmania capped a decent session when Freeman bowled Aaron Hardie through the gate for a duck with a cracking delivery.

Cartwright notched his half-century after tea, but Connolly took centre stage in the final session with brave batting. Undaunted by the big stage, much like when he was the hero of Perth Scorchers’ triumph in last year’s BBL final, Connolly drove at his first ball and edged between second slip and gully for a boundary.

He did not hold back and clubbed a couple of sixes, including one that sailed high down the ground and into the lower tier of the Lillee-Marsh Stand.

Tasmania needed some inspiration and they turned to the versatility of Webster, who unfurled his offspin and it did the trick when he bowled Joel Paris.

But Connolly raced along to his fifty in only 48 balls to justify his selection, with left-arm quick Liam Haskett unluckily missing selection after taking six wickets against Victoria in the last round.

Bancroft was at the ground before play with deep cuts evident on his right side of his face. He is recovering well from concussion and went for a light run yesterday.

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth

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