THE Darren Lehmann-led revival of Queensland cricket continues. So too does Victoria’s record of dominating the Ryobi Cup until the biggest match of the season.
The Bulls’ bad luck in losing the toss in threatening weather conditions on Wednesday at the MCG, and having its innings shortened by a rain delay of almost three hours, was offset by a defiant 47 from inexperienced all-rounder Jason Floros and a mighty four-wicket performance from injury-plagued paceman Ryan Harris.
Queensland’s score of 9-146, heavily inflated by Floros’ late flurry, seemed unlikely to trouble Victoria, until the Bushrangers’ now-notorious habit of not being able to produce their best in the final continued.
A late hitting flurry from Clint Mckay (18 off 13) left the home team needing only five runs from the last seven deliveries of a pulsating match that was deserving of more than the paltry crowd that witnessed it (no doubt partly due to the mid-week scheduling).
The Bulls, however, then took 3-2 to seal a memorable two-run victory, with Ashes aspirant Harris finishing the match on a hat-trick with the wickets of Mckay and Fawad Ahmed from consecutive deliveries.
The result extended the Bushrangers’ recent miserable record in one-day finals: six appearances in the past seven years – including five at home – with only a single title.
With wet-weather rules habitually favouring whichever team bats second, because teams are now so adept at maintaining high run-rates, the toss was crucial.
While there was luck involved in Cameron White winning the toss – and unsurprisingly fielding – the Victorian captain proved his worth with canny leadership beyond that.
White’s decision to rely exclusively on seamers Mckay, Darren Pattinson and John Hastings for the first 21 overs on a surprisingly lively pitch was crucial. The home side’s ability to take 4-71 before rain intervened in the 21st over meant that, when it abated almost three hours’ later, Queensland was not to be compensated – with an inflated target for Victoria – for having its innings reduced from 50 overs to 32.
The Bulls’ hopes of surging end to their innings nosedived when danger hitter Nathan Reardon and captain James Hopes departed within three overs of the resumption.
Despite the greasy conditions not being conducive to spin-bowling White turned to leg-spinner Ahmed. His faith was rewarded as Ahmed had the visitors’ last recognised batsman, Peter Forrest, caught behind for 26. He bowled so economically that White bowled him unchanged until the end of the innings, although the fast-bowlers then struggled.
Floros, a late inclusion for the injured Nathan Hauritz, arrived at 6-82 but saved Queensland from posting a meagre target with his 32-ball cameo.
Victoria slumped to 2-22 in its chase as both openers fell within the first six overs. By the 13th over Queensland had propelled itself into favouritism by snaring David Hussey and in-form Michael Hill cheaply. For each wicket the Bushrangers lost – four by that stage – their par score increased in case rain interrupted the match again.
A 63-run partnership between White (28) and Peter Handscomb (42) dragged Victoria back in front of the par score, only for both to depart within 10 deliveries after the target had been reduced to a run a ball from the last seven overs. Mckay almost got the Bushrangers home but fellow national-team paceman Harris proved more influential.
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