A sizzling Shane Watson half-century has stolen the spotlight from suspended duo Steve Smith and David Warner in Saturday’s NSW Premier Cricket clash in Sydney.
Watson bossed 63 from just 41 balls and wowed the adoring crowd for the match between Randwick-Petersham and Sutherland, which Sutherland won by three wickets.
While the main focus was on the first meeting between Smith and Warner on Australian soil since they were banned in March, the pair were overshadowed by Watson and Randwick-Petersham import Daniel Bell-Drummond, the Englishman who scored a sublime 106.
Sutherland’s Austin Waugh, the son of Test legend Steve who was part of a healthy crowd at Coogee Oval in Sydney’s east, also made an impact by dismissing Warner for just 13 in the first innings of the 50-over clash.
Batting second, Smith scored 48 having earlier claimed 1-35 from 10 overs and taken a catch in the deep.
Both Smith and Warner took time during the match to sign autographs and pose for photos with fans, and there was not a hint of animosity towards the banned pair from those in attendance.
Nor was there any ill-feeling between Smith and Warner themselves.
As the two teams entered the playing field after Sutherland won the toss and sent their opponents in, Watson exchanged a quick handshake and a few words with Warner before Smith offered a courteous “morning” to his former deputy as he passed.
Warner looked in good touch, as he has all summer, but misdirected a well-timed cut shot off the bowling of Waugh and was caught at backward point to end his stay.
He left the field to warm applause, but was clearly upset at falling cheaply.
A typically animated Smith bowled nicely, took a solid catch and was busy marshalling fielders in tandem with his skipper Chris Williams.
If there was any question over how seriously Smith was taking his cricket in the wake of the Cape Town scandal, it was answered when he threw his hands in the air in frustration after a ball off his bowling landed between an eager fielder, who had crept in from the deep, and the boundary rope, resulting in four runs.
That competitiveness flowed into his batting as he milked singles and banished the bad ball after Watson’s early onslaught.
But just as the right-hander looked certain to record his half-century, he was caught behind for 48 off the spin of Riley Ayre, leaving the field to a rousing ovation.
Watson, meanwhile, was a class above.
Opening the batting, the 37-year-old hammered five sixes and as many fours, with each maximum drawing gasps of amazement from the strong crowd.
One Watson six off the bowling of Sydney Thunder teammate Daniel Sams soared straight out of the ground and over the adjacent Dolphin St.
Sams also put down a chance from Watson in the deep - and in the process parried the ball for six - but the allrounder had his revenge when he held on to a good catch on the mid-wicket rope to remove his BBL skipper.
An estimated crowd of around 2000 fans were in attendance, which left some sitting on the turf between the fence and boundary rope, which thrilled Randwick Petersham president Mike Whitney.
"I think I would have to go back to the 1970s or early '80s when I was playing first grade, we would have had something like it," the former Test quick said.
"But now, it's usually a sprinkling in the stand, and then 15 or 20 here with wives and parents.
"This is unbelievable.
"It just shows if you can get these guys back playing club cricket, how much interest it evokes in club cricket."