The Sheffield Shield is one of the most prestigious competitions in domestic cricket worldwide, with international legends such as Richard Hadlee and Sir Viv Richards plying out their trade for the states within Australia.
As a young adult about to enter my last year as a teenager, I’ve grown up in the era of T20 leagues becoming the norm, but first-class tournaments such as the Sheffield Shield have always been my priority to follow. The Shield is something I always look forward to in the summer to find potential/future Baggy Green players.
Unfortunately for the past few years, the Sheffield Shield hasn’t been given the respect it deserves. Bearing that in mind, here’s my Sheffield Shield Team of the decade.
1. Michael Klinger – Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia
FC stats – 11320 runs, 39.3 average, 30 hundreds
From taking five years to score his first-class hundred since his debut in the 1998-99 season for Victoria, Klinger came a long way as a player. A move to South Australia in 2008 brought Klinger 2.0 – a much more consistent player.
Amassing a truckload of runs for South Australia till 2014, the Victorian moved to Western Australia where he finished his first-class career in 2017. An opener who was very comfortable driving and playing on the back foot, Klinger was a beast for South Australia and Western Australia in the Sheffield Shield.
Following Chris Rogers’ retirement after the 2015 Ashes, the domestic stalwart was overlooked many times for younger, more flashy batsmen.
Can there be a justification of Klinger not playing Test cricket for Australia? Considering that David Warner still hasn’t found a stable opening partner since Rogers’ retirement, I’d say no. A humble bloke off the field, Klinger certainly won many hearts across cricket fans in Australia.
Alongside playing in the Sheffield Shield, Klinger represented Worcestershire and Gloucestershire in County Cricket. Now the coach of the Melbourne Renegades, Klinger can inspire the future generation as a coach/mentor.
2. Chris Rogers – Western Australia, Victoria
FC stats – 25470 runs, 49.55 average, 76 average
Test stats – 2015 runs, 42.87 average, five hundreds
Where do I start on Rogers? It’s astounding to believe that a player of his calibre played only 25 Tests. Leaving Western Australia for Victoria in 2008 for more opportunities in the one day format, Rogers continued his run-scoring trend for the Eastern Australia state.
His watchful approach worked dividends in first-class cricket (as it should), as he would grind out the runs for his side. A recall in the 2013 Ashes was 100 percent deserved, and he didn’t fail to impress. A stable opening partner for David Warner, the pair scored 2053 runs in 41 innings – an average of 51.32 per opening stand before Rogers bid adieu to international cricket in 2015.
With 9,917 of Rogers first-class runs coming in the Sheffield Shield, he is the ninth highest run-scorer in Australia’s first-class competition – behind the likes of Michael Di Venuto, Jamie Siddons and Darren Lehmann.
In the history of first-class cricket, Rogers is the eighth Australian to surpass 25,000 first-class runs: joining the likes of Justin Langer, Sir Don Bradman and Mark Waugh in the illustrious list. A true great of domestic cricket who deserved a lot more respect and played more Tests.
3. Ed Cowan – Tasmania, New South Wales
FC stats – 10097 runs, 41.89 average, 25 hundreds
Test stats – 1001 runs, 31.28 average, one hundred
A move to Tasmania before the 2008-09 season revived Cowan’s career or else he’d have been lingering in Sydney grade cricket. An old school batsman, Cowan started churning out the runs for Tasmania at the top of the order before moving back to New South Wales for the 2015-16 season.
His performances for Tasmania saw him rewarded with a Baggy Green for the 2011 Boxing Day Test vs India – scoring a patient, but impressive 68 on debut. A few poor performances and his style of play not fitting in Darren Lehmann’s attacking mantra saw the left-hander dropped in 2013, never to be seen in international cricket again.
Despite topping the run-scoring charts in the 2016-17 Sheffield Shield, Cowan was controversially dropped in New South Wales’ opening Shield game the following season – with Steve Smith opting for the youth of Nic Maddinson and Daniel Hughes.
Cowan retired from first-class cricket at the end of the 2017-18 season, but still plays grade cricket for Sydney Uni here and there.
4. Callum Ferguson – South Australia
FC stats – 9209 runs, 37.13 average, 20 hundreds
Test stats – 4 runs, 2 average, zero fifties
With Steve Smith not playing much Shield cricket bar two full seasons as most, I’ve gone ahead with Callum Ferguson.
Ferguson was the shining light in an average South Australian team, where they received the wooden spoon seven times in the past ten Shield seasons. That’s more wooden spoons than the Rabbitohs and Eels combined since the inauguration of the NRL – that’s more than 150 seasons combined.
A top-order batsman, Ferguson kept on scoring runs for South Australia until he was finally called up to the Australian Test squad in November 2016. Run out for three and hanging his bat to a ball that didn’t bounce much in his second innings, the South Australian veteran was dropped after just one Test match.
He hit career-best form during the 2017-18 Sheffield Shield, amassing 780 runs in 9 games at an average of 48.75. But Ferguson was never considered for selection. Despite his ability to play spin comfortably and his experience that would’ve been handy after the suspension of Steve Smith and David Warner, the South Australian veteran seems to have fallen out of favour to the Australian selectors.
Ferguson is one of many Australian domestic players in the past decade who have not be given a fair chance due to their age.
5. Adam Voges – Western Australia (captain)
FC stats – 13881 runs, 46.42 average, 32 hundreds
Test stats – 1485 runs, 61.87 average, five hundreds
Another veteran who had to bide his time for the Baggy Green. A middle-order batsman for Western Australia, Voges was a class apart from his peers. His ability to play comfortably on the front and back foot had him score a truckload of runs for Western Australia.
At the age of 36, Voges made his Test debut, scoring 130 not out. Although his record in England and Sri Lanka weren’t excellent, Voges still scored nearly fifteen hundred runs in just 31 innings of test cricket.
Dropped from the Test side after the South African decimation in Hobart in late 2016, the Western Australian batsman was dropped and retired from Shield cricket a few months later. Just like Rogers, Cowan and Ferguson, Voges was overlooked many times from the Test team due to the selectors’ obsession with youth despite the runs he consistently scored in Sheffield Shield.
6. David Hussey – Victoria
FC stats – 14320 runs, 52.26 average, 45 hundreds
Out of all the players I’ve seen on the Australian domestic scene, it’s fair to say that David Hussey is the best player never to have played Test cricket for Australia. Between the 2010-11 season till his retirement in 2015, Hussey scored 2300 runs at an average of 44.23 with five hundreds and eleven fifties for Victoria.
A sound batsman who stopped many collapses, Hussey was unfortunate to be ignored by the Australian selectors for the longest format. His record spoke for itself, and his off-spin would give his frontline bowlers a breather.
7. Chris Hartley – Queensland (wicketkeeper)
FC stats – 6138 runs, 34.48 average, 10 hundreds, 547 catches, 17 stumpings
With Brad Haddin playing for Australia in all formats, I’ve gone ahead with Chris Hartley as my keeper. In terms of pure keeping, he was one of the best I’ve seen in world cricket. I genuinely cannot recall him having a bad season with the gloves for Queensland.
A selfless player, Hartley would go out of his comfort zone for the sake of his team. A quality keeper, the Queenslander retired from professional cricket in 2017 to give his younger understudy Jimmy Peirson a chance. The most prolific keeper with the most dismissals in Shield history, Hartley can consider himself hard done not to have played at least one Test match in his career.
Trent Copeland – New South Wales
FC stats – 374 wickets, 25.44 average, 2.49 economy
Test stats – 6 wickets, 37.83 average, 2.1 economy
Copeland is an unsung hero in Australian cricket. After taking 45 wickets in the 2010-11 Shield season, the New South Wales seamer made his test debut in Sri Lanka. Now fast bowlers find it tough to take wickets on the subcontinent and Copeland did a fine job by holding up an end and taking key wickets. Yet for some reason, he was discarded from the Australian team after that series in Sri Lanka.
Copeland didn’t give up hope and was a consistent wicket-taker for New South Wales. No mug with the bat as well, scoring one century and seven fifties in his first-class career. Alongside being a brilliant seamer for New South Wales, Copeland is an analyst for Channel Seven’s coverage of Test cricket – and he’s seamlessly fit into that role already.
Steve O’Keefe – New South Wales
FC stats – 301 wickets, 24.66 average, 2.52 economy
Test stats – 35 wickets,29.4 average, 2.77 economy
Taking over 300 wickets by an Australian spinner in first-class cricket is no joke. Although he didn’t turn the ball much, O’Keefe was a very accurate left-arm orthodox spinner.
His accuracy piled on the pressure on batsmen before dismissing them. Nathan Lyon’s understudy in first-class and Test cricket, O’Keefe delivered the goods with the ball for New South Wales and Australia when given the chance.
On the field, he did nothing wrong. But his off-field antics ruined his chances of playing more Test matches or else he’d have played at least another 5-10 more games for Australia.
With the NSW board not giving O’Keefe a contract for next season, he retired from FC cricket although it’ll be interesting to see if any other state offers him a contract given his experience and skill.
Jackson Bird – Tasmania
FC stats – 378 wickets, 24.48 average, 3.01 economy
Test stats – 34 wickets, 30.64 average, 3.23 economy
Making his first-class debut at the age of 24, Bird had a remarkable rise as he made his Test debut a year later on Boxing Day. While he didn’t have express pace, his ability to swing the ball both ways troubled opposition batsmen on many occasions in Shield and Test cricket.
Unfortunately, Darren Lehmann’s obsession with speed saw the Tasmanian seamer play sporadically, and he wasn’t included in the 2015 Ashes squad – where Australia’s pace bowlers looked out of sorts.
Chadd Sayers – South Australia
FC stats – 307 wickets, 25.67 average, 2.67 economy
Test stats – 2 wickets, 73 average, 2.97 economy
Australia’s Vernon Philander, Sayers has been a phenomenal bowler in the Sheffield Shield. The leading wicket-taker twice in his Shield career, Sayers troubled opposition batsmen with his accuracy and ability to swing both ways.
Just like Bird, Lehmann’s obsession with pace saw him overlooked many times before Sayers made his debut in 2018 – ironically, in Lehmann’s last game as coach of Australia.
Only 32, Sayers can still get another crack in Test cricket if he continues to take wickets for South Australia. After all, in the game of cricket, you can never give up.