The Matador Cup in review

The first Matador BBQs One-Day Cup has been run and won. The Western Warriors broke a drought with their victory over NSW in a final played at the SCG in front of only a handful of people. There were big individual scores, tiny team totals, and everything in between.

Format and location

The minor switch to split matches between Sydney and Brisbane was good, I suspect they won’t be switching back to a proper home-and-away fixture anytime soon, but I would like to see the condensed tournament format shared around the other states in the future.

My only issue with the current format, where all teams play seven games, is that it means they double up on two opponents, and that can be an advantage or a hindrance – for example, eventual champions Western Australia played both Tasmania (finished fourth) and South Australia (finished last) twice.

Interest levels

At the grounds the majority of turn outs barely constituted a crowd. At the elimination final between NSW and Queensland the cicadas drowned out the handful of spectators.

I managed to watch at least some part of every televised game. Domestic cricket on free-to-air TV still evokes childhood memories of spending weekend watching guys trying to hit the Mercantile Mutual signs.

The broadcaster screwed up when they chose to only show the first half of a day-night game last week, opting instead to show an eight-year-old documentary and a ten-year-old movie apparently because they wanted it switched to a day game and didn’t get their way.

By the time the tournament reached the business end my interest was waning, having peaked with 800-run smashfest in game 18. The first Test against Pakistan had also started. Sure, it didn’t end well, but as soon as it started the domestic tournament moved to a distant second on the viewing priority list.

I probably only saw 15 overs of the final, watching Australia struggle in their search for the unlikeliest of draws seemed a more interesting prospect.

Highs and lows

Tasmania had a shocker when they were reduced to 6/12 before eventually being dismissed for 62 against Western Australia. One week later they chalked up 1/398 against Queensland… and proceeded to lose.

Victoria also struggled for form, and South Australia’s lone victory was a consolation win against Tasmania in their final game of the tournament.

At the other end of the scale, Queensland racked up three consecutive totals of 350+ inside a week, including a mammoth 3/402 chasing down Tasmania’s imposing target with a whopping 16 balls to spare.

They looked likely to take out a third consecutive title before being knocked out by NSW in low-scoring elimination final.

Slam Dunk

As part of Tasmania’s aforementioned 1/398, Ben Dunk compiled a record 229* with 13 sixes and 15 fours. In that same game Usman Khawaja charged to 166 of 110 balls, combining with Chris Hartley, who picked up 142 runs of his own, for a record 280-run opening partnership – breaking the mark of 277 that had been set only a few hours prior by Ben Dunk and Time Paine (125) – both breaking a record that had stood for 30-odd years.

Quartets of pace

Although none of them played all eight of the Warriors’ matches, four of the top-six wicket takers were quicks from the West. Between them, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Joel Paris, Nathan Rimmington, and Jason Behrendorff took 51 wickets. All finished with averages south of 18, and economy rates below 4.20. Impressive stuff.

By comparison, the NSW quartet of Gurinder Sandhu, Josh Hazlewood, Doug Bollinger and Pat Cummins feature similarly in the wickets column picking up 50 wickets, but with economy rates ranging from 4.72 – 5.65, and averages all north of 24.

Player of the tournament

The official award went to Cameron White (354 runs at 59.00) who continued the run of form which saw him named player of the tournament last year.

Not sure how the award is decided, but it’s remarkable Khawaja somehow missed out despite piling on 169 more runs (523 at 74.71) in a more successful team – a gap that likely would have been even greater had he not missed the elimination final with a broken finger.

Both would have to be chances for the Australian’s World Cup squad – not something I ever imagined myself saying about Khawaja.