Parramatta broke a premiership drought that had lasted since season 1964/65 in the McDonald’s NSW Premier Cricket competition with a convincing 118-run first innings win over Sydney University in the 2017-18 Belvidere Cup Grand Final at Bankstown Memorial Oval.
The Benaud Medal was awarded to Parramatta paceman Scott Copperfield as Player of the Final for his magnificent figures of 6-69 from 22.1 overs. His skillful use of the short ball, particularly late on the second day, was a feature of his performance.
In reply to 334, Sydney University was dismissed for 216 after lunch on the third and final day. Copperfield fittingly captured the final scalp of the match to spark scenes of jubilation
Lawrence Neil-Smith (21) was his sixth wicket after a spirited effort by the lower-order batsman that lasted 110 deliveries.
It is the fourth Premiership title for Parramatta. It previously won the title in 1964/65, 1932/33 and 1899/1900, when it was known as Central Cumberland.
The previous title was spearheaded by a 19 year old Doug Walters who scored 138, and combined with John Benaud (62), for a 146-run fourth-wicket partnership in that final.
Sean Abbott was also outstanding for the victors in a complete all-round performance by the New South Wales Blues paceman. He claimed 3-47 from 20 overs and scored 62 from 77 balls. His 92-run partnership with Parramatta captain Nick Bertus (85) also played a vital role in setting up the win.
A true captain’s knock by Bertus was the glue that held the Parramatta first innings together. He batted almost the entire first day in an innings that lasted 222 deliveries.
In the process, the wicketkeeper-batsman also passed 1,000 runs for the season. He finished the campaign with 1,018 runs at an average of 46.3.
Parramatta was made to work hard for its victory on the third day. Sydney University resumed at 7/167 and some determined batting added 46 runs for the loss of just one wicket during the first session.
Neil-Smith and Tim Ley (38) refused to throw their wickets away as the pair added 50 runs for the eighth wicket.
As the partnership continued to grow, so did the sense a miracle was perhaps possible. However, the dismissal of Ley to the bowling of Copperfield dashed any real hope of a surprise victory on the third day.
The catch by Bertus to remove Ley gave the Parramatta skipper his third catch for the innings.
Ben Joy (4) was very brave throughout his short stay at the crease. He was struck on the forearm by Copperfield which appeared to cause him significant pain throughout his innings and at times he struggled to hold the bat.
His courageous effort came to an end when he was bowled by Abbott with the score on 214.
Copperfield also took aim at the stumps to dismiss Neil-Smith and complete the momentous win. Leg-spinner Devlin Malone remained not out on nought.
However, it was the second day that defined the match. The performance of Adam Turrell (55) during the early part of that day guided Parramatta past the 300 mark. He was well supported by Copperfield (15) and Jack White (15), who were resolute at the crease.
The composure and resistance of Turrell and the Parramatta lower order on that morning set the tone for the rest of the day.
The second-ranked team heading into the finals were in command by the end of day two with Sydney University 7/167 at stumps. Copperfield claimed four of those wickets, including the leading run-scorer for Sydney University this season, Damien Mortimer (14), with a perfectly directed short ball into the body.
Neil-Smith was excellent for the students. He collected 4-49 from 27 overs. The feats of Tim Cummins behind the stumps for the runners-up are also not to be understated.
Cummins took five catches in the Parramatta innings. It was the most dismissals the gloveman had claimed in a match this season. He finished the campaign with 42 catches and 7 stumpings.