Wounded Victoria chase high-flying Blues
Start time 7.15pm (08.15 GMT)
The Big PictureIt's unusual for a final to result in an easing of pressure, but it has been far more stressful making the decider of the Twenty20 Big Bash than it will be during the match. By finishing in the top two both New South Wales and Victoria qualified for the US$6 million Champions League in India in October. The chance for a tilt at those riches is a far bigger prize than a domestic trophy in the game's shortest format.
New South Wales roared with relief and expectation after beating the Bushrangers on the final ball of the last group match and Victoria made it through by breezing past Queensland in the preliminary final on Wednesday. While Brad Hodge's hamstring injury was the major talking point after the game, the volume became deafening the following day when Brendon McCullum, the New Zealand wicketkeeper, was unveiled by New South Wales for the decider.
Victorian officials could not think of another arena where a player could be drafted in without any qualifying period and be allowed to play immediately. Their hasty attempt to pick up Adam Gilchrist on a similar deal failed and they will not look for any new talent. The moves add spice to a contest that is always testy between two long-term rivals. The Bushrangers have won all three finals of the tournament and if their under-manned team can manage a fourth success it will be the most satisfying.
Twenty20 form guideNew South Wales - WLWLW
Victoria - WLWLWW
Team newsMcCullum comes in as an opening batsman, which is a relief for the incumbent wicketkeeper Daniel Smith, who also provides useful late hitting. Phillip Hughes, who has recovered from a quadriceps injury, is back in the XII and Simon Keen and Ed Cowan have been squeezed out. Doug Bollinger and Mark Cameron will play key roles with the new ball as they try to tie up an inexperienced Victorian order.
New South Wales (probable) 1 Brendon McCullum, 2 Philip Hughes, 3 Simon Katich (capt), 4 Moises Henriques, 5 Steve O'Keefe, 6 Ben Rohrer, 7 Dominic Thornely, 8 Daniel Smith (wk), 9 Aaron Bird, 10 Mark Cameron, 11 Doug Bollinger, 12 Steve Smith.
Hodge is out, leaving the Bushrangers without their three best players as David Hussey and Cameron White are stuck on national duty. White was not allowed to captain his side even though he missed Australia's three-wicket loss to South Africa in Sydney on Friday night. The allrounder Andrew McDonald, who played in the Sydney Test, will lead the side, but finding heavy hitters at the top of the order is a major concern. Chris Rogers, who should appear in his first Twenty20 match for the state, was called in to the 13-man squad as Hodge's replacement.
Victoria (probable) 1 Chris Rogers, 2 Aiden Blizzard, 3 Rob Quiney, 4 Aaron Finch, 5 Andrew McDonald (capt), 6 Adam Crosthwaite (wk), 7 Matthew Wade, 8 Damien Wright, 9 Shane Harwood, 10 Bryce McGain, 11 Dirk Nannes, 12 Jon Holland, 13 John Hastings.
Watch out for ...Dirk Nannes is the meanest local bowler in the competition with 11 wickets this season at an average of 12.00 and a stifling economy rate of 6.00. His left-arm angle makes life particularly difficult for the batsmen and his bounce and speed add to his weapons. When the sides met on Saturday he took 4 for 11, but couldn't find a boundary from the last ball to win the match.
Brendon McCullum will become New South Wales' first overseas signing since Imran Khan arrived for the 1984-85 season. An explosive opener, McCullum has more experience in limited-overs games than any of his team-mates, but how he copes with a one-off match will gauge the success of a move that could involve a single appearance in blue. His 158 off 73 balls in the first game of the 2008 Indian Premier League is the highest score in the format.
Pitch & conditionsThe surface at the Olympic Stadium was hard to score on last weekend and spin could be an important handbrake. It's a drop-in surface so the bounce is lower than usual, making it harder for batsmen to take chances. A hot day is expected, with temperatures in the mid to high 30s, and an evening storm is predicted.
Stats and trivia
- Victoria have lost only three games in four years in the competition, but two of those have come in this campaign
- Brad Hodge is the leading Twenty20 run-scorer on the domestic scene with 738 while David Hussey is second with 587. Dominic Thornely is the best of the New South Wales batsmen with 322
- New South Wales hope to beat the largest domestic Twenty20 crowd, which is 28,978 for Victoria's match with Tasmania at the MCG in 2006-07.
- Dirk Nannes has the most wickets in domestic Twenty20 history with 23 in 12 matches
Quotes"I'm no chance whatsoever, I think I'll be out for quite a while."
Brad Hodge picked up a hamstring injury on Wednesday
"The way the game has changed in the last 12 to 18 months is incredible. I'm sure other teams will look to do the same with the financial opportunities that are available, and it's humbling to be a part of it."
Brendon McCullum after being flown in by the Blues
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo