Pura bliss for Former Clunes cricketer
By STEVE SPINKS
FORMER Clunes cricketer Matthew Phelps was sure he heard it right.
Phelps was looking on glumly with his NSW teammates during the Pura Cup final against Queensland on Sunday afternoon at the Gabba in Brisbane as well-known batting bunny Stuart MacGill strode to the crease as the Blues only hope.
In remarkable circumstances, NSW crumbled from a winning position of 4-157 in their second innings to be 9-161, still needing a further 22 runs to win the match.
As the leg-spinner walked onto the field to join fellow tailender Nathan Bracken, a Queensland outfielder decided to test MacGill's mental fortitude.
The Maroon player yelled out to the Queensland 12th man in the dressing room to put the celebratory beers on ice.
"That's what I thought I heard," chuckled Phelps.
"Let's face it, Stuart isn't regarded for his batting prowess.
"But he and Dominic Thornley had batted for three or four hours together against South Australia in Sydney earlier in the season.
"Stuart didn't react, he was his normal cool self.
"I don't know if the other guys in our dressing shed were as confident as he was though."
Phelps admitted he was pretty worried.
"My blood pressure went up and my heart was racing," he laughed.
"I was pretty relaxed but when you lose 5-3 in those circumstances ... the whole nature of the game had changed."
But MacGill and Bracken rode their luck and guided NSW to a thrilling victory.
"It's definitely the highlight of my cricket career, as you would expect," Phelps said.
"I was involved in an ING Cup win a few years ago, but I hadn't played a game all year.
"That was rewarding but I hadn't played during the year so I didn't have the emotional attachment."
Despite only scoring 3 in both innings in the Pura Cup final, Phelps can look back at his first full NSW season with some pride.
The 32-year-old scored more than 600 runs and held 18 catches, most of them at first slip.
"If someone had said that I would have scored 600 runs at the start of the year, I would have taken it," Phelps said.
"I'm reasonably happy with it, but there are still plenty of areas I can improve on.
"I'm really happy about the catches.
"It entailed a lot of hard work and I was thrust into that position because the regular fielder broke his finger."
The Blues will meet again on April 1 when they gather for the annual Steve Waugh medal.
As for Phelps, he will return to Sydney grade cricket with Sydney University this weekend who are in the middle of their own finals campaign.
"I've never won a grade competition before, so if we can win that, that would be some more celebrations maybe," Phelps laughed.