The record books will show Queensland capped a long season with a thumping Sheffield Shield final win over New South Wales to claim their ninth title in Brisbane on Sunday. But veteran Test spinner Nathan Lyon believes the decider will be remembered as the game in which Marnus Labuschagne showed he could become “one of the greats”.
The Bulls’ attack stepped up again on Sunday to bowl NSW out for 213 in their second dig, securing a resounding win before lunch on day four by an innings and 33 runs.
After the Blues resumed on 140-5, legspinner Mitch Swepson (3-68) combined with Brendan Doggett (3-37) after Xavier Bartlett (3-42) struck on Saturday to help the Bulls secure their first title since 2017-18.
But Test No 3 Labuschagne was the toast of Allan Border Field after his sublime 192 on Saturday – the fourth-highest score in a Shield final – set up the rout.
NSW star Lyon was still in awe of the nine-and-a-half hour, 353-ball innings by his Test teammate who was named man of the match.
Labuschagne’s knock – his second-highest first-class score – had lifted Queensland to a first-innings total of 389 and a 246-run overall lead.
Lyon backed Labuschagne to repeat his heroics in the end-of-year Ashes series, saying the final may have ushered in the arrival of a cricket great.
“In my eyes he is a superstar already, but he has the potential to be one of the greats,” said Lyon. “This is the best I have seen him bat ever.”
Lyon had an absorbing duel with Labuschagne, taking 3-116 to finish with 42 scalps at 25.97 – the most in the competition – to earn the Sheffield Shield player of the year award on Sunday.
“I have nothing but praise for Marnus. I love him to death … I just hope he does it again against the Poms,” Lyon added. “He jumps in a plane in a couple of weeks and goes straight to [English county club] Glamorgan (so) he is going to get a taste of what the English bowlers will produce tactically.”
Bulls captain Usman Khawaja said Labuschagne’s confidence was sky high ahead of the Ashes. “That’s the hardest thing in cricket, maintaining that confidence,” he said.
“He has always had all the shots, he just had to figure when to play the shots … His decision making now is as good as any. I saw Steve Smith do something similar. If he can do half of what Steve has done he will be a very good cricketer.”
Meanwhile, Lyon admitted he was exhausted after he was the first player since 1975-76 to feature in every Shield and Test played in an Australian summer.
The unusual, epic Shield season started with games in an Adelaide “bubble” in October-November and was capped by Queensland’s win in the latest ever finish to a domestic season.
“I honestly think we were the best team this season,” Khawaja said.