Western Australia 115 and 7 for 196 (Hardie 70*, Cartwright 69, Neser 5-36) beat Queensland211 and 97 (Burns 31, Morris 4-26, Paris 3-15) by three wickets
Emerging allrounder Aaron Hardie thwarted fringe Test seamers Michael Neser and Mark Steketee on a green WACA pitch, as Western Australia recorded a remarkable three-wicket comeback victory against Queensland in the Sheffield Shield.
After WA slumped to 4 for 24 chasing a difficult 194, having made just 115 in their first innings, Hardie was the hero with an unbeaten 70, and he hit the winning runs with a superb straight drive to the boundary off Steketee late on day three.
Hardie provided the finishing touches after Hilton Cartwright dug WA out of a major hole with the pair combining in a valuable 71-run seventh-wicket partnership.
Even though it was a bowler-friendly wicket, Hardie said WA’s strong batting order maintained confidence throughout. “I thought we could chase 300 in the last innings,” Hardie said. “We’re a good cricket team and we bat really deep. We knew it was going to be hard early but we always backed ourselves.”
Having mostly controlled the match, it was a bitter loss for Queensland with both teams having entered the clash with one win and a draw from their previous two matches
“We just didn’t capitalise in the third innings, it was costly. That’s where we lost the game,” said captain Usman Khawaja after Queensland were bundled out for 97 after gaining a 96-run first-innings advantage.
In warm conditions, a far cry from the mid-winter temperatures experienced in Perth during the T20 World Cup double-header on Sunday, Neser threatened to rip through WA’s batting order.
After 20 wickets fell on day two, WA made a disastrous start to their chase when captain Sam Whiteman bagged a pair before nightwatchman Corey Rocchiccioli was dismissed hit wicket after awkwardly fending a searing bouncer from Neser.
With WA 3 for 9, the pressure was on 18-year-old sensation Teague Wyllie as Neser and Steketee bowled in tandem for the opening 30 minutes of play. But he struggled to cope with Neser’s sustained accuracy, edging to second slip as WA spiralled.
The smattering of fans were left pondering whether WA could bat through to lunch, having watched 11 wickets fall on a dramatic final session on day two.
But Cartwright and emerging left-handed batter Sam Fanning dug in and weathered the storm. Fanning, who made his Shield debut earlier in the season and struck an eye-catching half-century against India in a T20 practice match three weeks ago, survived a huge lbw shout from Xavier Bartlett on 17 and carried on as the pair combined for a half-century partnership.
WA’s hopes were further raised amid a hardening pitch, with less grass evident than previous days, as batting appeared slightly easier. But Fanning’s 83-ball resistance ended after being clean bowled by Bartlett with WA still needing over 100 runs for victory.
Keeper-batter Josh Philippe then had a soft dismissal, hitting a length delivery from Neser straight to mid-off.
It was up to Hardie, the last recognised batter who top scored in WA’s first innings with 44, to support Cartwright and he mixed compact defence with occasional counterattack.
Hardie’s confidence rubbed off on Cartwright, who started to play more fluently as he reached his half-century – just the third of the match- before tea set the stage for a nerve-jangling final session.
Inching closer to a century, Cartwright fell to a spectacular one-handed return catch from Neser with WA requiring a further 41 runs.
Neser then tested Hardie with short-pitched bowling, while legspinner Mitchell Swepson – who didn’t bowl in WA’s first innings – was brought into the attack in a last-ditch effort from Queensland.
But Hardie kept his cool to register a famous WA victory that had coach Adam Voges understandably delighted in the terraces.