Nash, Love spoil Tasmania's broth
All the ingredients for Queensland's fifth first-class title in eight years are in place after batsmen Brendan Nash (96) and Martin Love (93) served up a run-feast for the Bulls on the third day of the Pura Cup Final against Tasmania here in Brisbane today.
Both players fell agonisingly short of centuries, and there was also a disappointing late Queensland collapse. Yet Tasmania's dreams of a maiden first-class crown all but evaporated under the weight of their performances through the day's opening two sessions.
By stumps, the hosts were positioned at a score of 6/279 in their second innings and were clasping a mammoth overall lead of 440.
Two days of the match remain, as does a conviction that Queensland has probably already done enough to make the impact upon the result of the next 12 hours of play largely meaningless.
"I like the position we're in at the moment," said Nash in the wake of a 177-run stand for the second wicket with Love that kept Tasmania to a single scalp today until deep into the afternoon.
"It's still not over (yet) obviously ... but I'd definitely rather be where we are than they are.
"If they were to make 450-plus to win, then they'd definitely deserve it. But I'd certainly back our bowlers."
In warm and physically taxing conditions, Tasmania started well. Inside the opening half hour, Daniel Payne (29) was magnetically drawn into swishing at a wide outswinger from David Saker (1/36) and promptly speared a catch to Michael Dighton at slip.
There was also a diversion to the general trend of the game when Nash and Love, each in the nineties at the time, fell in the space of a heartbreaking five minutes shortly after tea. That set the tone for a good finish to the day for Tasmania - a commodity that had proved so elusive over the previous two.
Lee Carseldine (12) was magnificently caught at point when a bruising cut shot was intercepted by Scott Kremerskothen as he flung out his left hand instinctively.
Andrew Symonds (32) fell in the way that the Tigers imagined that he might have in the first innings when again trapped on the line of crease by Shane Jurgensen (3/56). And the Tigers' late comeback was then capped as Wade Seccombe (5) groped with discomfort at a Jurgensen leg cutter.
But, for close to four hours, there was nothing could unhinge the association for the second wicket.
Nash was at his strongest when hitting square of the wicket, especially through the off side. All sectors of the ground were covered, however, in a hand that perfectly honoured Queensland's desire to build its lead as painlessly as practicable.
Love was uncharacteristically scratchy early in his vigil but, once set, was also beautifully organised in both attack and defence. He has a skill for being at the crease at important times in big-occasion matches and, as an average of 50.8 over the course of six finals appearances might attest, an innate knack of understanding precisely what to do when there.
Daniel Marsh (1/39) - providing his best impersonation of Lazarus in returning both to the field and to the bowling crease after seriously injuring his right knee two days ago - ultimately spoiled the party, forcing Nash to edge to slip.
Love departed within minutes when an extravagant drive at the medium pace of Kremerskothen (1/35) produced a thick outside edge, and the opportunity for Damien Wright to avail himself of another fine low catch in the gully.
The Tasmanians would still need to defy history on at least two fronts, though, to reverse the general flow of the match. Aside from never having lifted a first-class title previously, they also confront the grim reality that no team in the 19-year catalogue of first-class finals matches has successfully pursued a victory target of anything even remotely resembling the one they will face.
Victoria's 2/239, which carried it to triumph in 1990-91, still stands as the highest watermark.
The Tigers decorated their approach to the game today with tremendous spirit even though the odds were generally stacked heavily against them. There was no suggestion of surrender, their attitude and their fielding was exemplary, and the luckless Gerard Denton's first spell of the day was his best of the summer.
But it still looks like their goose may be cooked.