Unbeaten Victoria seek final win
Victoria have not lost a game in the two seasons of Australia's domestic Twenty20 competition but have a tough challenge in the final at the MCG on Saturday, facing Tasmania without their destructive captain Cameron White. The Tigers could also be down one key player depending on the availability of Ben Hilfenhaus, who was a late addition to the Australia one-day squad.
In a season when only one team has won batting second, it could be argued that the biggest contest of the night will be the coin-toss. But Victoria, who have made the extra-short format their own, proved against Western Australia on Wednesday it is possible to chase down huge scores, reaching their target of 202 with 11 balls to spare.
Even without White, who is in the Australia squad for the CB Series, the Bushrangers' batting line-up looks imposing. David Hussey, Brad Hodge and Aiden Blizzard have each smashed big scores this season, while Andrew McDonald and Adam Crosthwaite have kept the runs flowing in the late overs. Tasmania should also be capable of setting a target or chasing, if the in-form Michael Dighton - whose 111 from 56 balls against New South Wales on Wednesday was the highest score in the competition - and Michael Di Venuto can again start well.
Shane Harwood, whose opening spell could prove vital for Victoria, said White's absence would not affect the team. "We're confident we can win batting first or second - and no matter who we have out there," Harwood said. "We have won with Cameron in and won without him. He deserves his place in the Australian team."
The two sides were to meet in the preliminary rounds last week but the match at Hobart was rained out without a ball being bowled. The shared points put the only blemish on Victoria's otherwise perfect record and gave Tasmania an edge compared with Queensland and Western Australia, both of whom were considered more likely finalists before their losses on Wednesday.
Tim Coyle, the Tasmania coach, said his side deserved to be playing off for the KFC Twenty20 title regardless. "I wouldn't say we were surprised to make the final, we needed a little luck to go our way and for once it did," Coyle told Hobart's Mercury newspaper. "It is a good Twenty20 team, we have got good strength in our batting, we field well - all the things that are pretty important - and the bowlers are standing up most of the time."
The loss of Hilfenhaus, however, could give Victoria's batsmen an advantage. The Tasmania fast bowler was a late replacement in the Australia line-up for Brett Lee, who has a chest infection. Should Hilfenhaus remain with the squad over the weekend, Luke Butterworth looks set to take his place in the Tigers' team. Cricket Victoria hopes to draw a crowd of more than 25,000 to the MCG for the final, which will begin at 7pm.