March 25, 2002

Bulls continue march to title

Queensland is just a day away from claiming its fifth domestic first-class title after it continued to remorselessly shut Tasmania out of the 2001-02 Pura Cup Final here at the 'Gabba in Brisbane today.

By stumps on the fourth day of the season's ultimate match, the Tasmanians had been reduced to a score of 4/190 as they pursued a near-impossible target of 530 for victory.

Not even paceman Shane Jurgensen's production of the first ten wicket haul in the 20-year history of Sheffield Shield/Pura Cup finals matches could reverse the trend as Queensland set about accumulating a mountainous lead and then bowling its way to a potentially early finish.

Simply, it would now take a miracle for Tasmania to win the match.

The Bulls started the day comparatively poorly, losing Stuart Law (15), Michael Kasprowicz (2) and Scott Brant (0) in quick order. In removing that trio, the redoubtable Jurgensen (6/104) captured at least five wickets in an innings for the fourth time in succession and cast the figures of 9/84 achieved by both Adam Dale and Wayne Holdsworth into the shade as the previous best returns in a match played at this point of the season.

But the Bulls still looked like a team at ease with themselves, the world, and their commanding position in the match.

In a freewheeling association that aligned sensible shot selection with the odd heave, two dropped catches, and several plays and misses, Ashley Noffke (47*) and Joe Dawes (26) proceeded to chip in with a 52-run last wicket stand that quickly swelled the Bulls' second innings total to 368.

Though their opponents generated a bright start to the season's final innings and few difficulties remained in the pitch, any last, lingering hopes of a Tasmanian victory were little beyond a pretence thereafter.

Positive strokeplay illuminated the games of Scott Mason (39), Michael Dighton (38) and Jamie Cox (19) in the two hours between lunch and tea as the Tigers clattered impressively to 1/110 by the interval.

After the break, though, there was little to arouse excitement among the visitors.

Dighton swung the very first delivery of the evening session to fine leg, perfectly picking out one of only two fieldsmen stationed on the leg side at the time. There should have been another wicket later in the same Andrew Symonds (2/30) over as the batsmen dithered over the prospect of an overthrow: the run out of Michael Di Venuto (42*), on 2 at the time, being stymied only by the availability of nothing better than blurry television replays.

It mattered not, though.

The plucky Mason soon top edged with an attempted hook at Kasprowicz (2/56) and the innings of a still-restricted Daniel Marsh (2) became as hobbled as his movements when a back foot drive at Symonds sent the ball arrowing into the gloves of Wade Seccombe standing up at the stumps.

Gully fieldsman Daniel Payne's stunning interception of an edged Cox drive at a Kasprowicz outswinger earlier in the afternoon had also been symbolic of the fact that the right things have continued to happen at all the right times in this match for Queensland.

Di Venuto proceeded to join with Scott Kremerskothen (26*) in a diligent unbroken partnership that ultimately restored health to Tasmania's innings and also marked time in carrying the visitors to stumps without further breaches of their defences.

But, in a more general context, it appeared that they were merely delaying the inevitable.