The NSW Blues have flexed their muscle with a spectacular defence of a modest total against the West End Redbacks in their Matador BBQs One-Day Cup clash at North Sydney Oval.
Mitchell Starc sparked the home side with 4-27 from 8.3 overs, including a brilliant yorker to dismiss opposing skipper Travis Head on the first legitimate ball of the run chase, to skittle South Australia for 110 inside 32 overs.
The Blues collected two more bonus points for their efforts to go with the two they collected on Monday in their 279-run victory over the Cricket Australia XI.
It appeared set to be a lop-sided affair on paper with the NSW side boasting 610 international appearances between them, compared with South Australia’s 43, however superb fielding and disciplined bowling from the Redbacks restricted a star-studded NSW line-up to 9-266.
Their hopes of victory were soon dented when Starc followed up a first-ball wide with a late-swinging delivery that crashed into the off-stump of Head, who was coming off a phenomenal double century on Monday.
Watch: Star's fantastic four (restrictions apply)
An almost constant stream of wickets followed as Tim Ludeman (6) chopped on a delivery from seamer Gurinder Sandhu and then Starc landed another massive blow by sending the in-form Callum Ferguson (1) on his way courtesy of a mistimed drive to cover.
Spin twins Nathan Lyon and Stephen O’Keefe were introduced inside 10 overs and kept things tight on the tiny suburban ground. The left-armer was rewarded with two wickets, while Lyon returned later in the afternoon to pick up one of his own.
The game was all but over when Tom Cooper was given caught behind for 28 after a passionate appeal by Sean Abbott in the 23rd over.
Watch: O'Keefe's appealing masterclass (restrictions apply)
Starc finished the job by making a mess of Putland’s stumps to claim his second man-of-the-match award for the tournament. The left-arm quick already has 10 wickets at a remarkable average of 5.2 this summer.
Earlier, Head won the toss and gave his bowlers first use of the overcast conditions in north Sydney.
Sam Raphael was simply brilliant in the field, taking two catches and inflicting two sublime run outs from point, while Adam Zampa took a one-handed screamer to ensure the Blues were never able to run away with the momentum.
Watch: Raphael's renaissance act in the field (restrictions apply)
Opening batsmen Ed Cowan and Nic Maddinson made a steady start before Raphael held on to catch with a full-length dive to send Maddinson on his way for 12.
Blues skipper Steve Smith arrived at the crease and quickly set about rotating the strike and picking runs with ease on the small suburban ground.
The introduction of leg-spin brought about immediate effect when Zampa induced a false shot from Cowan (39) that landed safely in Raphael’s hands.
Zampa struck again four overs later in almost comical fashion as the big-hitting Shane Watson attempted to heave a rank full toss, only to see his stumps dismantled for 12.
Watch: Watson makes a meal of full toss (restrictions apply)
Smith steadily kept the innings on track with a tough dropped chance in the deep by Putland the only real scare for the Australian skipper.
He lost his partner Henriques (35) to a sharp catch on the boundary rope by Tom Cooper to become Tom Andrews’ sole wicket in a miserly 10-over spell that conceded just 44 runs.
Smith backed up his maiden one-day century for NSW on Monday by bringing up his half century from 59 balls with more than 19 overs remaining in the innings and Test wicketkeeper-batsman Peter Nevill at the other end.
Watch: Steve Smith leads NSW with 72 (restrictions apply)
The direction of the innings changed significantly in the next over as Smith called through Nevill for a quick single, only for Raphael to dive, collect and then throw down the stumps from side on.
Smith carried on and things looked particularly ominous when he played a remarkable lap sweep-flick that landed safely on the roof over fine leg.
However, another spectacular catch – this time by Zampa – brought about the skipper’s downfall on 72. It got worse next ball as O’Keefe casually eased one towards gully where Raphael pounced from point and again completed a direct hit to leave Abbott well short of his ground on 25.
At the 40-over mark the Blues were 7-211, but simply couldn’t accelerate with Starc bowled by Putland for 11, followed by O’Keefe’s departure on 17 from a Head run out.
Zampa and Putland each claimed two wickets, but the tight bowling of Andrews and Mennie (1-47 off 10) were vital in restricting the team of stars to what looked to be an achievable target.
That wasn’t the case though and the Blues now enter Saturday’s blockbuster clash against Western Australia with two big wins under their belt, while the Redbacks will look to re-group ahead of their crucial match-up against Queensland on Sunday.