Victoria v Queensland, Sheffield Shield final, Melbourne March 12, 2009

Dominant Victoria plan to avoid final slip

Match facts

March 13-17, 2009
Start time 11.00am (local time)


Andrew Symonds needs to step up for Queensland in the five-day final © Getty Images
 

Big Picture

Victoria have had no problems this season except in finals and have one game left to fix the problem. Both the FR Cup and Twenty20 deciders were lost - Queensland stole the one-day trophy by sparking a dramatic collapse - and those misses become a pattern when added to the Pura Cup defeats in 2007-08 and 2005-06.

In times of doubt teams look to their big-name players and Victoria have a trio of key batsmen in Chris Rogers, Brad Hodge and David Hussey to guide them over the next five days. They all ran into form during the dress rehearsal for the final, when Victoria lashed 8 for 806 before declaring in the draw against Queensland last week.

The decider has produced a flood of runs over the past three years due to the home team needing only a draw to collect the trophy. Victoria, who are desperate to lift the refurbished Sheffield Shield, finished the season on 44, 16 ahead of the Bulls, after going through unbeaten and not giving up a point to any opponent.

Queensland, whose bowlers have tried to shut out the horror of last week, are already challenging the hosts not to choke again. The Bulls are saying goodbye to the retiring Martin Love, their leading run-scorer, and are aiming for an end-of-season revival that will give him a sixth Sheffield Shield/Pura Cup success.

Season's form guide (most recent game first)

Victoria DDWWWWWDWD
Queensland DWLLLLWWLW

Watch out for

Brad Hodge is in form after his epic 261 at the MCG last week, but he is intent on using that as a warm-up for bigger things at the Junction Oval. Hodge is a master of the domestic scene and provides his team with immense confidence and, usually, lots of runs. His Sheffield Shield tally stands at 10,091 for Victoria over 16 years, including 696 this season.

The next five days give Andrew Symonds his last chance to prove he should be part of the Ashes squad. Symonds was suspended from the South Africa trip due to his rehabilitation from a series of off-field problems, and he enters the final with a new look after shaving his dreadlocks for charity. Symonds' results with bat and ball have been ordinary by his high standards - 183 runs at 15.25 and six wickets in the Sheffield Shield - and his contribution in this game, along with that of Shane Watson, will have a huge bearing on whether Queensland can overhaul their rivals.

Team news

All of Victoria's bowling concerns have eased and they have named a full-strength line-up following the return of Shane Harwood (ankle), Dirk Nannes (side) and Clint McKay (side). Nannes bowled in a club game last weekend while Harwood and McKay passed fitness tests over the last week. Damien Wright also returns to the squad after resting during the demolition of Queensland and Lloyd Mash is the likely 12th man.

Victoria 1 Nick Jewell, 2 Chris Rogers, 3 Brad Hodge, 4 David Hussey, 5 Cameron White, 6 Rob Quiney, 7 Matthew Wade, 8 Damien Wright, 9 Clint McKay, 10 Shane Harwood, 11 Dirk Nannes, 12 Lloyd Mash.

The situation isn't as easy for the Bulls, who have ruled out the swing bowler Chris Swan with a lingering groin injury. Queensland's selectors trimmed the 15-man squad to 13 after training at the Junction Oval on Thursday, calling Ben Cutting into the XI and leaving out Scott Walter. Lee Carseldine is fine after picking up a back complaint while a decision will need to be made whether to risk Nathan Rimmington and Ben Laughlin, who has been called into the national one-day squad, following their lack of penetration at the MCG. The Bulls' bowling back-up is being tested after season-ending injuries for Ashley Noffke and Ryan Harris.

Queensland squad Ryan Broad, Nick Kruger, Martin Love, Shane Watson, Andrew Symonds, Lee Carseldine, James Hopes, Chris Hartley (wk), Chris Simpson (capt), Daniel Doran, Ben Cutting, Nathan Rimmington, Ben Laughlin.

Pitch and conditions

The Junction Oval is the home of the St Kilda club and where the Bushrangers often train. It has a capacity of 8000 and a reputation for a pitch that is full of runs. However, the surface has offered some help for bowlers in club matches and there has been wet weather around in the lead-up to the final. Thunderstorms and isolated showers are predicted over the first four days.

Stats and Trivia

  • In the past three finals the home team has totalled 844, 800 and 900 in one-sided victories
  • Chris Rogers, the Victoria opener, is second on the season's run-list with 1048, 155 behind Michael Klinger. Martin Love is Queensland's best on 697
  • Love, who scored 300 at the Junction Oval in 2003-04, is 13 from 10,000 Sheffield Shield runs
  • The Bushrangers last won a domestic first-class title when they beat Queensland by 321 runs in 2003-04
  • Victoria's 8 for 806 declared last weekend was the seventh-highest score in Sheffield Shield history

Quotes

"The first 15 overs is going to be very important, if we get through that I think we'll be set."
Chris Rogers

"The wicket is going to be flat, but hopefully it might break up later in the game."
Lee Carseldine crosses his fingers for some help for Queensland's bowlers

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo