Tense Blues victory books Champions League spot
New South Wales 8 for 128 (Thornely 36*, Nannes 4-11) beat Victoria 9 for 126 (Finch 43) by 2 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
New South Wales came from behind to earn a chance at a multi-million dollar pay day in the Champions League Twenty20 after Victoria imploded chasing a small target at the Olympic Stadium in Sydney. Dirk Nannes' outstanding 4 for 11 helped reduce the Blues to 8 for 128, but the Bushrangers flopped in reply and suffered a demoralising two-run defeat when Nannes could manage only a single from the last ball.
Victoria, who lost their third match in four years, were in line for the riches in India last December before the US$6 million tournament was postponed following the Mumbai terrorist attacks. Told they had to requalify, they were leading the competition until this match and must now beat Queensland at the Gabba on Wednesday to secure their spot in the global event - and the domestic final, which will be played at the Olympic Stadium next Saturday.
While Simon Katich's men roared at their revival, the Victorians were shattered and the result dumped South Australia from the competition. The Blues finished on top of the table with six points, the same number as Victoria and Queensland, but sneaked ahead due to a superior record in head-to-head contests.
The Bushrangers were in control when they needed 27 from the final five overs before the Blues raced back into contention as the visitors lost their heads, the match and, perhaps, a shot at a seven-figure cheque at the Champions League in October. "It's a script on how to stuff up a cricket game," the captain Brad Hodge said.
Both sides were missing key players on Australia duty, but it was the absence of the cool heads of David Hussey and Cameron White that proved more costly than David Warner's late call-up to the national side. There were five run-outs in Victoria's innings and each time they appeared to be on top they froze.
On an evening when the players were nervous with the possibilities, their difficulties were added to by a drop-in pitch offering low bounce. When Doug Bollinger gave up only 12 off his opening four overs the Bushrangers were tense at 2 for 29 in what should have been a comfortable pursuit. Hodge had been run out by a diving Mark Cameron in the second over after a mix-up with Aiden Blizzard and Cameron followed up by winning an lbw decision against Blizzard (5).
Two for 17 could have become 3 for 18 when Daniel Smith dropped a tough chance off Aaron Finch, who almost took his side to victory with 43 from 46 deliveries. Fifteen runs from a Dominic Thornely over eased the demands on Victoria at the half-way mark, but almost immediately Rob Quiney was run out for 21 and Andrew McDonald was caught short without facing a ball.
Adam Crosthwaite entered at 4 for 61 and drove a six before Finch followed up with back-to-back clearances as Thornely gave up another 15. However, Crosthwaite was bowled for 20 and the pressure increased with each dot ball from Cameron, Aaron Bird and Steven O'Keefe, who was unlucky to miss a stumping to Damien Wright due to an umpiring mistake. Victoria needed 20 off two overs when Bird bowled Finch and then Wright departed to another run out.
Shane Harwood started O'Keefe's final over with a six, leaving 10 required off five balls, and scampered three lots of twos to mid-on. With four wanted from two, Harwood was stumped by Smith, who was standing a couple of metres back from the wickets. The No. 10 Nannes squeezed a single and Jon Holland was run out coming back for a second, leaving them at 9 for 126.
"A score of 120-odd was a little bit below par, but anything can happen in a final," Katich said. "It was a great effort by everyone."
Nannes had Moises Henriques caught and bowled from the fifth ball of the match and in his second over hit Steven Smith's off stump to have the hosts 2 for 16. He created another serious problem for the Blues when Ben Rohrer stepped away to cut but could only edge behind to Crosthwaite on 7. At the end of his three-over opening spell Nannes had 3 for 6 and already it appeared Victoria were heading for victory.
Katich pushed to Wright behind point and ran, but O'Keefe was never a chance of reaching the striker's end and as he departed New South Wales were a disastrous 4 for 39. There was hope for the Blues when Katich was there, but his bright 35 off 26, which included three legside sixes, ended when he swiped across the line to Harwood and was bowled.
Thornely stayed till the end and his cautious 36 off 36 meant his bowlers started with a chance, while Smith also chipped in with 19. Nannes returned for his final over and watched Bird play on to complete a fine performance. A few minutes after his last-ball single Nannes was awarded the Man-of-the-Match prize, but wanted to swap it for a boundary.
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo