All points North for WA final
All points North for WA final

WA must buck the trend of recent Sheffield Shield finals if they are to end a 15-year drought by winning the national four-day competition.

The Warriors lost to NSW by three wickets yesterday in the last qualifying match of the season, but scraped into the shield final in Canberra when Victoria held off the fast-finishing Queensland in the other game at the MCG.

The WA players will return to Canberra on Tuesday for the match starting on Friday against a Blues team bolstered by the return of Test captain Michael Clarke and Australian all-rounder Moises Henriques.

Coach Justin Langer identified veteran batsman Marcus North as a key to WA's prospects after saying that most shield finals had been won by the team with the greater experience.

"It is a great reward for the boys to make the final because everyone knows how hard they have been working," Langer said.

"But we will have to buck the trend of the past 15 years because we have such a young team.

"Very few teams have won shield finals with players under 21 and we have seven under 23, but it is exciting and great for the future."

North's first shield match was the game that started WA's defence of the title they won in 1998-99.

There have been 15 barren years since then, but North's next shield match will be WA's first appearance in a final after that long drought finally came to an end.

"I have been playing for 14 or 15 years and have never played in a final," North said.

The left-hander has scored 884 runs at 68.00 this season - a tally surpassed by just six WA openers - and his success at the top of the order has been critical.

The WA selectors will decide whether to recall Mitch Marsh, who has recovered well enough from a side strain to be able to bat though he may not be able to bowl his medium-pacers.

Batsman John Rogers was part of the squad in Canberra and may come into the team if the WA selectors decide to boost their top order. Marcus Harris and Ashton Turner would be the most vulnerable players if Marsh and Rogers were included.

"There may be tough calls but we know the pitch favours spin and reverse swing bowling so we will have to consider that to get the right balance," Langer said.

WA were on track to host the final until Test batsman Steve Smith (89) provided the foundation of NSW's successful run chase. Needing 110 in the day after being set 213 to win, NSW lost the early wickets of Ben Rohrer, Kurtis Patterson and Peter Nevill before Smith and Stephen O'Keefe (31 not out) saw the Blues home.

Only three teams have won after scoring fewer than WA's first innings 82.

WA's Shaun Marsh and opponent Nathan Lyon were each fined about $660 after an incident on the third day when Marsh was given out lbw then reprieved by umpire Paul Wilson. Marsh was found guilty of dissent for indicating he had edged the ball, while Lyon was fined for kicking a stump out of the ground.

Qualifying for the final marks the most successful season of WA cricket since 1996-97 when the Warriors played in two domestic finals. They beat Queensland in the one-day competition that season, but lost the shield final.

The West Australian

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