How disciplined WA overcame 'tough slog' for sweetest triumph

Western Australia's dual hat-trick of domestic titles required every bit of their remarkable pace bowling depth

Unbelievably/incredibly disciplined. Almost the same two words, uttered by two different opponents less than two weeks apart following their side's most important game of the Marsh Sheffield Shield season.

That's how Victorian head coach Chris Rogers described the performance of Western Australia after his side were knocked out of contention to make the final, bowled out for less than 150 in both innings of their sudden-death final-round clash.

Ten days later Tasmania skipper Jordan Silk said the same thing after his Tigers were strangled in their first innings of the Shield decider, crawling along at barely two runs an over despite opener Caleb Jewell's admission that they "were trying to score".

A hallmark of WA's remarkable dual hat-trick of men's domestic four- and one-day crowns has been just how deep their fast-bowling stocks run, and this year they've required every bit of that depth to secure their third straight Shield title.

Led by Joel Paris, who returned a career-best 39-wicket campaign, WA used seven frontline quicks throughout the season, who were complemented by their trio of internationally capped seam-bowling allrounders Cameron Green, Aaron Hardie and Hilton Cartwright.

On top of the wickets, Paris' dot ball percentage (81.9, minimum 50 overs) was the highest in the competition this season and he solidified his status as one of the Shield's most accurate bowlers in the final as Tasmania scored off just 28 of his 174 deliveries for the match.

Overall, WA finished as the competition's most economical pace attack this season (2.71 runs an over) and they also recorded the highest dot ball percentage (79.5) of the six states.

Even more remarkable is that two-time Shield winners Lance Morris and Matt Kelly, along with star speedster Jhye Richardson, sent down fewer than 100 overs between them for the season, and all three were unavailable for the final.

Forced to dig deep due to injuries and absences, skipper Sam Whiteman said that made this triumph the sweetest of the three.

'It's taken the whole squad': Whiteman hailed WA's extraordinary depth // Getty

"It's been a huge effort from everyone involved," Whiteman said after securing player-of-the-final honours for the second time in three years.

"We've had a tough slog this year with injuries and Australian selection … it's taken the whole squad to win.

"The way someone stood up when we really needed them to throughout the year has been amazing and the most pleasing part about it is it's often someone (different)."

Whiteman paid special mention to Cameron Gannon's past month (22 wickets at 16.64 in the last four matches), which included five-wicket hauls in both the final and their must-win round 10 clash with Victoria.

Gannon had been 12th man for the past two Shield finals, but this time he was perhaps one of the first names on the team sheet in what has been his best season since moving from Queensland in 2020.

"It's the greatest thing I've done in cricket," the 35-year-old said following his second-innings 5-23 in a session to bowl WA to the title late on day four at the WACA Ground.

"I was in the squad for the last two (finals), didn't get to get on the field, so to actually play and contribute … is so good."

Gannon torches Tigers to lead fourth-innings rout

As a fringe player for most of his four seasons in the west, Gannon said WA was one of the "most selfless bowling groups" he has been part of during his 14-year career.

"That epitomises our bowling group and our squad as a whole," the right-armer said. "We always talk about how it takes a squad to win these titles.

"Generally, you're all on the same team but there's a little bit of tension, you're competing for only so many bowling spots and there's so many bowlers.

Gannon leads WA off after his five wickets in the second innings of the final // Getty

"(But) here it feels like everyone's backing each other in and when you get your shot and your next man up, you feel like everyone's behind you. That's huge from a confidence perspective and allows you to go out there and do your job."

Gannon, who took eight wickets in the final, said it was fitting for their attack leader Paris to close out another dominant year for WA with a hanger in the gully off his bowling to clinch the last Tasmanian wicket late on Sunday afternoon in Perth.

During the first eight years of his career, the left-armer missed five of WA's six finals as various quad, foot, shin and back injuries saw him sidelined for the state's 2017-18, '19-20 and '21-22 One-Day Cup titles.

It's therefore his durability that has pleased him most about this campaign – along with a third Sheffield Shield winner's medal – rather than the career-best number of wickets.

Paris played eight Shield games this summer for the first time in a season, missing only one of WA's last nine matches after overcoming a hamstring injury suffered while representing Australia A in August that saw him miss the opening two rounds.

"I feel like whenever I've been able to play game after game that's led to some good performances," the 31-year-old told cricket.com.au's The Unplayable Podcast prior to the final against Tasmania.

"So there's no doubt that the consistent cricket I've been able to play has led to some nice results.

Stunning Paris catch gets the all clear from TV umpire

"This year there's been no management plan, we haven't had that luxury.

"We've had to do it a little bit differently this year with the injuries that we've had to the bowling group.

"We've got guys that we've needed to step up this year … consistent contributors the whole way through the year has been the biggest thing for us.

"We don't like to leave it up to one or two guys to do the work, we feel like certainly this year we've had to rely on a whole group."

And with towering left-armer Liam Haskett, who took 20 wickets in his debut season before being squeezed out for the final, Australia Under-19 World Cup champion Mahli Beardman and rookie quick Josh Vernon waiting in the wings, that group is only going to get bigger next season.