Marsh Sheffield Shield 2019-20
Shield triumph the perfect wake-up call for Hughes
An early-morning call from the Blues head coach delivered some much-needed good news
24 March 2020, 12:28 PM AEST
Last Tuesday, NSW Blues opener Daniel Hughes was woken up by a phone call from his coach Phil Jaques with some welcome news.
"Congratulations, mate, you're a Sheffield Shield winner," Hughes was told by his coach at 7:30am.
At 11am, Cricket Australia announced the final of the Marsh Sheffield Shield had been cancelled, following a decision to cancel the final round in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
CA also declared NSW the winner of the Shield competition, the 47th first-class title for the Blues, having finished the season in first place with six wins and 50.76 points, 12.23 points clear of Victoria in second place.
"When the last round got called off we weren't real sure what we were going to do or what was happening," Hughes told cricket.com.au.
"Three or four days later I got a call from the coach. That was a pretty good call to get first thing in the morning.
"The coach just called all the players and congratulated them on a good season and that was pretty much it."
The successful season started with four straight wins as the Blues made the most of having their Test players – Steve Smith, Mitch Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon and David Warner – available before their international commitments.
A draw against Victoria snapped the winning streak but before the BBL break Peter Nevill’s side beat Queensland for the second time, a game played at the Sydney Cricket Ground amid thick smoke from the surrounding bushfires.
A shock loss to Victoria, who after six rounds were yet to record a single victory, was followed by a solid win over South Australia in which Hughes posted twin centuries, before losing to Tasmania in Hobart in a match dominated by the bowlers.
But with one round to go and the COVID-19 outbreak sweeping quickly throughout Australia, CA cancelled the final round of the Shield season to stop the domestic travel, and chance of infection, of the players. Two days later the final was also canned and the season declared run and won.
While there was no final, which the Blues were set to host in Wollongong, Hughes says there is no gloss taken off claiming the title in such extraordinary circumstances.
"It's always nice if you play in a final and win it but when you get six wins for the year and the next best team wins three I think it was a pretty dominant display throughout the year," he said.
"We are deserved winners."
The truncated seasoned did not stop the Blues quietly toasting their victory, albeit under different conditions given the preventative measures imposed by the Australian government.
"We did get a chance to celebrate," Hughes said. "About a week ago we booked out a house and got all the boys together, had a few beers and reminisced over a good season.
"We were in isolation, in a lockdown, but we got a chance and we’re happy with that."
Those celebrations would not be permitted this week under the stricter self-distancing guidelines, which has left Hughes with "absolutely no idea" what he's going to do with his time at home.
"Normally you'd just book a holiday and go away somewhere for a month or do something," he said.
"I'm lucky enough to be living with Harry Conway, so he entertains me for a little while.
"But it's only been four days and I'm starting to wrestle him now!"