New South Wales 1 for 223 (Cowan 88*, Smith 84*) beat South Australia 221 (Cooper 105, Ferguson 61, Hazlewood 3-28, Starc 3-39) by nine wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
South Australia did well to get this far. New South Wales did better to get their hands on the Matador Cup. In what proved to be a lopsided conclusion to the tournament, the Blues brushed the Redbacks aside with nine wickets and more than 20 overs to spare, vindicating the captain Steven Smith’s decision to send the visitors in to bat on a pleasant day at North Sydney Oval.
Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon and Sean Abbott all contributed with the ball in an even display by the Blues, which underlined the team’s intimidating depth of talent, while also exposing how a few members of the Redbacks XI still have much to learn about performing under pressure for their state. The loss of South Australia’s last seven wickets for 30 will haunt numerous members of the XI, for at 3 for 191 they had looked well placed to set a target near enough to 300.
Left with a far more modest tally to chase, Nic Maddinson provided a supercharged start for the Blues before Ed Cowan and Smith matched each other shot for shot in a rollicking stand of 165 to close out the contest. Smith’s performance rounded out a strong tournament for Australia’s captain, even if it emerged that he has been carrying a sore knee for much of this year.
The Redbacks had excelled in defending mid-sized targets during the competition, notably doing so twice against Victoria to knock out the far more seasoned Bushrangers’ collective. But a dropped chance in the second over, when an airy cover drive from Maddinson burst through the hands of Adam Zampa, proved to be an opportunity South Australia could not afford to spurn.
As he has done all tournament, Starc made a vital early incision by bowling Travis Head with a ball nearly identical to that with which he did the very same to the young captain in the qualifying match between these teams. Hazlewood followed up with the wicket of Tim Ludeman and it took a hardy stand by Tom Cooper and Callum Ferguson to steady the Redbacks innings.
Their union put South Australia in decent shape heading towards the final 10 overs, but the Blues recovered ground with remarkable ease once Cooper had reached his eighth limited-overs hundred. The very next ball had Alex Ross chipping a return catch to Abbott, and from there the innings melted away.
Starc and Hazlewood came back to add another two wickets apiece, meaning the former had ripped out 26 wickets in this tournament, with no fewer than 20 of them being lbw or bowled.
Maddinson, Cowan and Smith took progressively more liberties against the Redbacks bowlers in the afternoon, meaning Head could never create the sorts of pressured scenarios that allowed his young side to corral Victoria.
As Smith hoisted a final six to finish things before he was embraced by Cowan, it was difficult to escape the following conclusion: this had been a tournament of progress for the Redbacks, but for a powerful Blues line-up bolstered by players available due to the postponed Bangladesh tour, the lifting of the trophy was nothing less than they had expected.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.