Hodge and Hussey hold the key for Victoria
It might not strike as much fear into opposition players as Lillee and Thomson or Hayden and Langer did, but Victoria's Hodge and Hussey combination is starting to cause major headaches for the other states. Brad and David teamed up again on Wednesday in a remarkable display of one-day batting that must have had Tasmania's bowlers watching nervously ahead of Saturday's FR Cup final in Hobart.
Hodge's 116 against New South Wales in Sydney was overshadowed by Hussey's 60-ball century - Victoria reached a state-best 352 - and their 167-run stand was just the latest in a string of high-scoring collections in which the two have combined. They are both in the top five run scorers in the FR Cup this season and they have had similar success in the Pura Cup, so it's not surprising they are high on Tasmania's list of targets.
"We'll be trying to get Hodge and Hussey out early," the Tasmania batsman Michael Dighton said. "Hopefully they've scored all their runs [on Wednesday] and they won't score too many on Saturday."
Hodge's century was his second in consecutive games and Hussey is coming off a Twenty20 international debut earlier this month and the honour of being bought for US$675,000 in the Indian Premier League - nearly double the price received by his more famous brother Michael. Bryce McGain, the Victoria legpsinner, said the pair's form was rubbing off on the rest of the squad.
"It was real class from Hodge to steer his way to 116 from as many balls and Huss was just brutal," McGain said. "It's the best Victoria's ever done and it was great to be part of it. The guys who made runs will feel like they're in great form. It builds a lot of confidence for everyone to see those innings."
Tasmania are not exactly out of touch after they hammered South Australia by 121 runs in their last preliminary match. They also earned the important right to host the final and have only been beaten once at Bellerive Oval this season - by Victoria. After their Pura Cup triumph last summer Tasmania aimed for one-day improvement this year and although their four-day efforts dropped away, they achieved their desired limited-overs success.
Dighton has played a major role and is the tournament's leading run scorer with 530 at 58.88. A pair of centuries and a 90 highlighted his value but on Saturday he is aiming to make up for two single-figure failures against the Bushrangers. "In the past I've done quite well against the Vics," Dighton said. "They're a very good attack and if you score runs against them you know you've got to be playing at your best."
For Victoria, reaching the FR Cup decider was an achievement in itself as it meant they had qualified for all three finals. They won the Twenty20 title and will have to wait a month for their shot at Pura Cup glory. McGain said it was too early to celebrate their excellent year. "It's pretty exciting," he said, "but there's still a lot of work to be done."
Tasmania squad Michael Dighton, Tim Paine (wk), Travis Birt, George Bailey, Daniel Marsh (capt), Dane Anderson, Luke Butterworth, Mark Divin, Jason Krejza, Xavier Doherty, Brett Geeves, Brendan Drew, Ben Hilfenhaus, Nathan Wegman.
Victoria squad Aiden Blizzard, Rob Quiney, Brad Hodge, David Hussey, Cameron White (capt), Michael Klinger, Andrew McDonald, Adam Crosthwaite (wk), Shane Harwood, Clint McKay, Darren Pattinson, Bryce McGain, Dirk Nannes.
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo