After 23 long years, the Sheffield Shield is finally back at the WACA.
Western Australia were deserved winners of the title after batting Victoria into submission for 163 overs across the last three days, with their lead growing to 480 runs before the captains shook hands at lunch.
WA were on the wrong side of frustrating draws seven and eight years ago, against Victoria and New South Wales, when that was enough for the top side to be crowned victors.
WA only needed to draw to win the final because of their 100-over first-innings bonus-point advantage, 1.67 to 1.44 which is the equivalent of 23 runs or a little more than two wickets.
It capped off a golden summer for WA Cricket, with a 50-over title and the Perth Scorchers’ Big Bash League/WBBL double, despite spending the majority of the season on the road due to the State’s strict borders.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the hosts, who slumped to 5-110 early on day four after losing two wickets in nine balls after the first drinks break.
But a marathon 174-run, five-hour partnership between dogged opener Sam Whiteman, who backed up his first-innings 85 with a hard-fought 123, and young allrounder Aaron Hardie (174no), had the shield within reach.
Whiteman was named player of the final.
Hardie, who was only three months old last time WA lifted the shield, finished with a magnificent unbeaten ton.
He took two balls on the final day to become the top-scorer in the innings, Whiteman who soaked up a staggering 517 balls across his two knocks.
It was Hardie’s second first-class century in 10 matches not only a career-high score, but the third highest by a West Aussie in a shield final behind Mike Veletta’s 262 in 1986-87 and Adam Gilchrist’s 189 not out in 1995-96.
The 23-year-old, who also had an impact with the ball, taking 3-54 off 24 overs after opening the bowling, got to 150 with his 23rd boundary late in the morning session.
Whiteman was one of three WA players to feature in both of their last two finals alongside opening partner Cameron Bancroft, who scored a vital first-innings 141, and captain Shaun Marsh.
Spinner Jon Holland broke through with the first wicket of the day in the seventh over, trapping Joel Paris plum in front for 21 with a dart at his toes.
But that would be the only highlight in a tough session for the Vics.
More to come