Victoria v Queensland, Sheffield Shield, Melbourne, 1st day March 5, 2009

Watson shows his style as Queensland's saviour

Cricinfo staff

Queensland 8 for 257 (Watson 114*, Hastings 3-37) v Victoria
Points table

Shane Watson gave the Bulls something to smile about © AFP

Shane Watson returned to form at the perfect time for Queensland to steer them away from danger with an unbeaten 114 at the MCG. The Bulls face a nervous few days as they try to stay ahead of Tasmania to earn a spot in next week's final in Melbourne, but Watson eased their early fears after they tripped to 7 for 106.

By stumps they were a much more comfortable 8 for 257 as Watson dragged the lower order with him. Watson, who lasted three balls on his return from back stress fractures last week, showed his freedom during a 142-ball display that included 16 fours. On a day when everyone else struggled, Watson operated with ease against Victoria's impressive but second-string bowling attack.

The Bushrangers are missing the injured Shane Harwood, Dirk Nannes and Clint McKay and are hopeful of having them back for the decider. However, all three of their replacements made important contributions as Queensland lost 7 for 55 before Watson took control.

Martin Love, who was promoted to open in what could be his last game before retirement, and Ryan Broad added a confident 51 for the first wicket after rain washed out the first session. Things quickly started to go wrong for the visitors when John Hastings bowled Love for 23. Broad (30) and Lee Carseldine (21) also made starts before slipping and Victoria's high point came with three wickets in two overs before tea.

Andrew Symonds (13), Chris Hartley (0) and James Hopes (0) went on the eve of the break and Chris Simpson followed without scoring shortly after it. Darren Pattinson and Steven Gilmour earned two wickets each while Hastings finished with 3 for 37. Victoria lead the competition by 14 points and are aiming for an undefeated season.