New South Wales stand-in skipper Kurtis Patterson believes the Blues fast bowlers are at the top of their game leading into the JLT Sheffield Shield final against Victoria at Junction Oval, Melbourne, starting Thursday.
In the absence of captain and wicketkeeper-batsman Peter Nevill, who remained in Sydney for the expected birth of his first child, Patterson led his state to an emphatic 149-run win over Tasmania, in Hobart, that booked the Blues a final spot.
After his first match as NSW captain in a Sheffield Shield fixture, Patterson said his job was made easier by the performance of his fast bowlers Sean Abbott, Trent Copeland and Harry Conway.
“It really helps when you’ve got three fast bowlers at the top of their game and really hurting the opposition,” said Patterson.
Abbott drove home the victory against Tasmania on Saturday after Patterson declared with a 269-run lead before the start of day four.
Vicious late swing, at pace, was a valuable commodity for Abbott on an extraordinary fourth morning that saw him claim career best figures as Tasmania was bowled out for 120 within a session.
Abbott returned 7-45 from 12.4 overs. Copeland also took 8-119 for the match, including 6-88 in the first innings, and went past great Australian left-arm pace bowler Alan Davidson to ninth on the all-time list of leading wicket takers for NSW in First Class cricket.
Patterson, a recent Australian Test debutant, said key to his declaration was the support of his bowlers.
“We just thought generally down here in Bellereve, the first hour, the wicket offers a little bit more, as the wicket is a little bit tacky and (that’s) the beauty of having the full confidence … of your bowling group,” Patterson said.
“We knew that 270, if we bowled well and hit our areas, would be hard to chase.”
While Patterson captained the Blues on four occasions during the JLT One-Day Cup, due to a finger injury suffered by Nevill on the eve of their first match, he enjoyed his first experience in the role at Shield level.
“I love this bunch of guys, they’re all really willing to learn, and really willing to help each other out when we need to.”
The only two matches the Blues have lost this Shield season have been against Victoria; their opponents in the final. The most recent came at Drummoyne Oval by 63 runs.
Patterson said the team was approaching the final as another opportunity to showcase their skills.
“Yes, it’s a final, and it would be great to win it, but I think the focus for us as a group is just that, that it is an opportunity, another game for us to go out there and play.
“The way we’ve built momentum, unfortunately we had a little trough against the Vics last week, but the way we’ve built momentum since Christmas has been fantastic.
“We’ve still got a couple of areas to improve, so hopefully we can put that close to perfect game together next week.”