Joey off the pace as Blues go down
The credibility of the interstate Twenty20 series took a blow after NSW skipper Simon Katich refused to put rugby league star Andrew Johns on strike in the final over of its eight-run loss to South Australia.
With the Blues needing 13 runs off the last over, Katich turned down singles off four of the first five balls from paceman Ryan Harris as he sought to protect a nervous Johns from the strike.
Katich, who top scored with 27, struck the final ball for four but was booed off the field by much of the record 10,652 crowd at Newcastle No.1 Sports Ground as the Blues tallied 9-142 in response to the Redbacks' 9-150.
Johns, who survived a stumping appeal off the only ball he faced from offspinner Dan Cullen, admitted he had no desire to face Harris.
"It was scary with the game on the line I suppose," Johns said.
"No I didn't want to get down the other end. I didn't want to get out and I didn't want to get hurt."
While the Blues failed to come away with the win, the move to play Johns proved a spectacular success as a publicity stunt with a huge crowd packing into the ground to see their local hero.
"We spoke about trying to get a two or then fours and sixes," Katich said.
"Nothing against Joey, but the fact that he had just come to the crease and facing the quick bowlers, it was going to be hard."
Johns admitted he hadn't given the challenge facing him much thought before the game.
"It was not until I got here that it really sunk in, especially when I got the pads and the helmet on," he said.
"I have a new-found respect for the guys. It's just phenomenal how skilful they are and how mentally tough."
South Australian captain Darren Lehmann said Johns "did alright" and was unlucky to have a catch dropped in taking 0-9 with his off-spinners from one over.
"It was a great day for him. I'm sure he was a bit nervous but look, he did ok," Lehmann said.
"I think the concept is okay. You would probably like to use it a bit different, maybe bat him a little bit higher. Lehmann said he was a little bit surprised at Katich's last-over tactics.
"It was probably right at the end of the day. They just didn't get across the line," Lehmann said.
Asked about the Johns stumping appeal, Lehmann smiled and said it was "pretty close".
"The third umpire would have been interesting. Home-town decision, we've got no dramas with that at all. Keep him in the game," he said.
Lehmann won the toss and batted first, leading the way with 33 off 27 balls. The twice World Cup winner steadied the innings with man-of-the-match Graham Manou (43 off 42 balls), adding 49 for the sixth wicket.
NSW opener Phil Jaques was out for 12 before handy contributions from David Warner (26), Ed Cowan (25) and Brad Haddin (22).
Nathan Adcock (3-19) and national squad spinner Dan Cullen (3-27) each took three wickets for the Redbacks. Johns will also play for the Blues on Wednesday at Telstra Stadium against Tasmania.
"I'll just try to survive, get through without getting hurt," Johns said.