'Be brave': Why embracing pressure is the WA way

A theme of 'walking towards pressure' helped Western Australia and Perth Scorchers embrace critical moments to secure the past six men's domestic titles

Barely an expression flickered across Ashton Turner's face as he strolled to the middle of the WACA Ground under gloomy skies last Friday afternoon.

He'd just witnessed Hilton Cartwright fall for a 19-ball duck to one of the catches of the summer, but Western Australia head coach Adam Voges reckons Turner's heart rate would hardly have nudged 60 beats per minute.

After all, the 30-year-old had been there countless times before. And so had many of his teammates.

While the colour of the ball may have been different, the score was near-identical when Turner walked to the crease in the KFC BBL|12 final seven weeks prior in front of a capacity Perth Stadium crowd on the opposite bank of the Swan River.

Brisbane Heat had Perth 3-54 having lost 2-6 in last month's BBL final when Turner arrived at the wicket, and on Friday WA had lost 3-1 across almost six overs to slip to 4-53 in the Marsh Sheffield Shield final against Victoria.

On the morning of his match-defining Shield final century, the state's 50-over captain encouraged his teammates to 'be brave', and embrace their theme for the final to "walk towards the pressure".

This year it was Turner, Aaron Hardie and later Joel Paris with the bat, last year at 5-110 in the second innings of the 2021-22 Shield decider it was Sam Whiteman and then 23-year-old allrounder Hardie.

And in the BBL|12 final it was Turner, and later, teenager Cooper Connolly and Nick Hobson.

No matter where you look, WA Cricket has an abundance of players ready to step up to the plate when their time arrives.

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Victoria head coach Chris Rogers noted as much when he said if they'd played any other side in the Shield final these past two seasons, they might have walked away winners.

"Right now, Western Australia are a bloody good side and they're hard to beat," he said post-match, after WA secured the 2022-23 title with a nine-wicket victory.

"We'd get something started and they'd get a wicket, and that's the quality they have."

Voges, who ahead of the season explained his side were "targeting more silverware" rather than defending titles, revealed his team had spoken about pressure prior to the Shield decider.

"We were going to be under pressure at some point throughout these four or five days," the 20-Test capped batter said after securing his sixth title as coach from the six on offer in men's domestic competitions over the past two seasons.

"And my message to the group was to embrace those moments and walk towards them.

"I thought we did that wonderfully well.

"We knew Victoria would come hard at us, they did last year and they do every time we play against them and we knew we'd have to play well.

"It's really easy to say, to do that, but Ashton Turner in particular to come out in the situation he was and form that partnership with Aaron Hardie and then with Joel (Paris) to get us into a match winning position, that's the actions that go along with those words.

"The strength of this group again this year is whenever we've been challenged we've found a way to step up and thankfully we were able to do that again."

Turner explained that he tried to take the emotion out of the situation as he strode to the crease to meet Hardie on Friday after Mitch Perry flew acrobatically high to his left at point to reel in a catch for the ages to dismiss Cartwright.

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"We spend a lot of time behind the scenes preparing to play in games, and you try and take the emotion out of the game … and try and play on skill," he said post-play on day three of the final.

"Often when wickets have fallen, that's what's running high, (is) emotions.

"I've got a game plan and I tried to stick to that as best I could.

"I'm really clear on how I want to bat and fortunately, it worked in innings."

Paris, who put on 105 runs with Turner for the seventh wicket on Saturday morning that lifted WA from parity into a position of dominance, said it's Turner’s relaxed nature that makes him so good in pressure situations.

Image Id: F6598DA582664BCCA1D22B7CFFD4B664 Image Caption: Several of WA's Australian representatives were missing from their XI that won the Shield final // Getty

"You see how calm and collected he is throughout Big Bash cricket, and what he's like as a captain," he said.

"To have him at the other end and be able to talk through different scenarios, what our plans were going to be, just (being) so clear and relaxed made my job a lot clearer.

"I could just focus on my job of supporting him throughout that partnership."

Voges adds: "Nothing fazes him.

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"That's his wonderful strength and what he brings to our group is that level of calmness.

"He's a wonderful leader within our group. Obviously, he captains our white-ball team but just to have him out in the field as well, you just know that things are being controlled while he's out there.

"His batting was outstanding. He had to work really hard to get back into this team and it's probably a bit of a sliding doors moment because if Shaun Marsh doesn't retire, then perhaps Ashton Turner doesn't get the opportunity.

"So for him to then go and make the most of it … to be able to perform under the pressure the way he did, was brilliant."