Tasmania sneak to one-wicket trophy success
Tasmania 9 for 131 (Birt 37*) beat Victoria 158 (Hussey 50, Doherty 4-18) by one wicket on D/L method
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Tasmania crept home to end Victoria's plans for domestic domination as they lifted the FR Cup after a mostly wet and extremely tense afternoon in Hobart. The one-wicket victory earned the home team's third limited-overs trophy and it was sealed following a gripping chase, which was originally 159 before being cut to 131 by the weather.
Bryce McGain almost snatched the game from Tasmania with 3 for 11 from five immaculate overs, but the legspinner's cool was matched by Travis Birt's calm. Birt's glide for three off the first ball of the final over ensured a great escape and sparked celebrations of relief at Bellerive Oval.
After a rain break at 19.4 overs the sunshine of the morning returned and a comfortable Tasmania assignment of 42 off 68 balls became more difficult when Mark Divin cut McGain to point and Xavier Doherty charged unsuccessfully two balls later with 22 still needed. Brett Geeves added to the stress - he thought he was out lbw twice - and after a useful stand he departed with four to win before Brendan Drew edged twice in two balls to Adam Crosthwaite, who pouched the second attempt to the roars of his team-mates.
Victoria wanted only one wicket but Ben Hilfenhaus navigated the two balls necessary to give Birt the strike for the final over. Throughout the crisis Birt kept his head and his 37 off 37 was the best innings of a see-sawing contest.
"We've been fantastic all year, although this was not our best game," Dan Marsh, the Tasmania captain, said before accepting the FR Cup and a cheque for $96,000. "But we bowled magnificently, and fantastic batting at the end got us over the line. Thanks, Birty."
Irritating rain, which caused three breaks in the second innings, and an afternoon temperature around 13C did not help the approach of Tasmania, who originally appeared desperate to conquer the small total quickly. As hosts they had the advantage if the match was abandoned before 20 overs, but they wanted to win it properly and the attitude kept Victoria's interest as regular breakthroughs came.
Dane Anderson thrashed 15 from a Dirk Nannes over, which included a pulled six, and then fell in the next trying to loft Clint McKay on 25. Michael Dighton (19) and George Bailey (7) also slipped to aggressive miscalculations against McKay, who gained 3 for 42. Things started to get exceptionally tight for the first time when Marsh jumped across his stumps and was lbw to Shane Harwood, leaving the Tigers at 5 for 76.
A superb all-round bowling performance from Tasmania limited the powerful Victoria to 158 in 37.3 overs after Cameron White won the toss. Geeves started the problems with three early wickets and Hilfenhaus and Doherty cleaned up once the dangerous stand between David Hussey and Andrew McDonald was extinguished.
Despite the early dominance, the Tigers were fearful with Hussey at the crease and he was the main reason the Bushrangers were able to stay for so long on a pitch the fast men enjoyed. Hussey, who belted a 60-ball century on Wednesday, waited ten balls before opening with a six over midwicket, one of two in his 69-ball innings, and remained in control despite some tricky patches.
However, when he cut Doherty behind point to Hilfenhaus on 50 any hope of a big total was gone. McDonald had already departed to Hilfenhaus for 35, slicing to third man after a fortunate escape from a catch in the slips on 8, and Crosthwaite became the first of Doherty's four victims when ruled to have edged behind.
After Hussey and Harwood fell in consecutive overs Victoria had lost 4 for 19 and the innings closed with Nannes failing to offer a shot to Doherty. He captured 4 for 18 off 6.3 overs while Geeves had 3 for 28 and Hilfenhaus 3 for 32.
"They were outstanding, especially Geeves early," Marsh said. "Then for Ben to come back and get us those two wickets, it showed he's back to his best form."
The home team started strongly as Hilfenhaus wobbled the ball and his partner Geeves caused problems with his short deliveries. Brad Hodge (9) was a key wicket for the Tigers and when he pushed away from his body to Birt in the gully Geeves and his team-mates were ecstatic.
Tasmania's mood improved further next ball with White nicking a fierce lifting delivery, leaving the Bushrangers at 4 for 47. McDonald survived the hat-trick and then started the recovery work in an 80-run stand with Hussey that was not enough. White, who admitted the better team won, will have to wait until next month's Pura Cup for another opportunity to earn a second trophy for the season.