Top 30 Shield seasons of the past 30 years: 15-11
We’re counting down the 30 best individual seasons in the Sheffield Shield from the past 30 years. Today, the late, great Dean Jones appears
1 October 2020, 01:28 PM AEST
15) Andy Bichel (Qld), 2004-05
Matches: 11 | Wickets: 60 | Ave: 22.10 | 5wi: 4 | BBM: 10-127
The only player in Sheffield Shield history to have taken 50-plus wickets in a season on three occasions, Andy Bichel hit rare air in the summer of 2004-05 when he became the fifth bowler to hit the magical 60 wicket mark.
The Queensland right-armer was bordering on unplayable for a time in the Shield and he combined that with an indefatigability that rivalled the most durable fast bowlers of any era.
Teaming up with Joe Dawes (46 wickets that season), Bichel ran through a host of batting line-ups through the campaign, starting in Brisbane in October with a second-innings 7-77 against the Blues, following up with another nine wickets against South Australia and adding five-wicket hauls against Tasmania and Victoria before the Christmas break.
That ridiculous run slowed somewhat as the season wore on but when Queensland came within one wicket of winning the final, they largely had Bichel (who also averaged 22 with the bat) to thank.
Twelve months later he was at it again, taking another 50 wickets, averaging 34 with the bat and this time leading the Bulls to the title in a season that could easily have found itself onto this list as well.
14) Greg Matthews (NSW), 1991-92
Matches: 11 | Wickets: 49 | Ave: 20.87 | 5wi: 4 | BBM: 11-133 | Runs: 580 | Ave: 41.42 | 100: 1 | HS: 139
Greg Matthews' Test career was fast coming to a close when the zany off-spinning allrounder put together his finest domestic season and one of the most dominant all-round campaigns of the past 30 years.
Only Mark Waugh (762 runs in seven matches) scored more runs for the Blues than Matthews' 580, which included a treble of half-centuries and a match-winning double of 139 and six wickets against a Victoria side that included Damien Fleming, Merv Hughes, Paul Reiffel and Shane Warne.
Matthews operated at an incredibly miserly 2.26 runs per over (in one innings against Tasmania, he took 2-7 from 18 overs, with 15 maidens), but far from playing a holding role, he was a wicket-taker as well, twice claiming 10-wicket match hauls on his home patch, the SCG.
In the first of those games, against Queensland, his 11-133 was complemented by scores of 85no and 67.
The Blues went on to lose the final to Western Australia that season but Matthews had enjoyed the most productive Shield season of a career that to this day positions him as the competition's most successful off-spinner.
13) Michael Bevan (NSW), 1993-94
Matches: 11 | Runs: 1,240 | Ave: 82.66 | 100s: 5 | HS: 203no
Michael Bevan was only 23 through the 1993-94 Shield season but remarkably, it was the second time he had put together a campaign that included five centuries. This one, made three summers on from when he'd first achieved it as a 20-year-old, was also punctuated by seven fifties, as the enigmatic left-hander became just the second player to put together a 1200-run season since Bill Ponsford in 1927-28.
With the Blues boasting their full contingent for the first two matches of the season, Bevan bided his time behind Michael Slater, Mark Taylor and the Waugh twins, failing to post a fifty.
Once they departed for international duties however, it was a different story; his first innings at No.3 for the campaign yielded a match-winning 141, he made a second-innings 50 as NSW were rolled following on against WA, and then he went on a ridiculous 11-innings stretch: 81, 103, 89, 71, 117*, 203*, 1*, 67, 50, 69*, 113.
The last of those was the top score in the Shield final, which New South Wales won for the second straight season to end Bevan's stunning summer on a fitting note.
12) Chadd Sayers (SA), 2016-17
Matches: 11 | Wickets: 62 | Ave: 19.00 | 5wi: 5 |BBM: 11-76
With a bustling run to the crease and a simple front-on action, Chadd Sayers swung and seamed his way into the record books for South Australia in the summer of 2016-17.
The 29-year-old was just about unplayable at times, collecting four five-wicket hauls in 10 matches to steer the Redbacks to their second consecutive Shield final.
Once there, he picked up a first-innings haul of 7-84 to become just the sixth player in Shield history to claim 60 wickets in a season, and his final tally of 62 places him third on the overall list.
It was a season of exceptional consistency for the right-armer, who took six wickets to open his campaign against WA, then routed Tasmania with match figures of 11-76 to quickly raise talk of national selection. That would come later (he played his lone Test to date on Australia's ill-fated tour of South Africa in 2018) but in the immediacy, Sayers kept his focus on the Shield, claiming an eight-wicket match haul against NSW before Christmas and backing it up in the new year with nine against WA and eight more against the Vics.
Then came the final, and despite more South Australian heartbreak, it was a season to remember for Sayers.
11) Dean Jones (Vic), 1991-92
Matches: 5 | Runs: 938 | Ave: 156.33 | 100s: 4 | HS: 243*
The late Dean Jones only needed five matches to produce a memorable Shield campaign in the home summer of 1991-92 – his last, as it happened, as a Test cricketer.
The Victorian got his eye in with a nine-and-a-half hour, 433-ball unbeaten 243 against Tasmania in his first innings of the season, then added 68 and 144 against the Blues, and 214 against South Australia.
By mid-November, he was approaching 700 runs for the season at an average exceeding 165, but his Test selection meant a reprieve for domestic attacks and he played only one more Shield match before Christmas. Incredibly, he piled on a third double-ton of the campaign – 204 in an innings victory over WA – and after making a century to finish the home Test summer against India, he returned for one final knock in the Shield, making 54 against NSW.
It was brief, but Bradmanesque, and one wonders just how high up this list Jones might have finished had he spent the whole summer flaying Shield attacks.
Shield Countdown so far
Make sure to return to cricket.com.au and the CA Live app all this week as we continue our countdown of the best Shield performances of the past 30 years