Victoria show class with fourth Big Bash triumph
Victoria 7 for 166 (Finch 48, Blizzard 42*, O'Brien 3-26) beat South Australia 9 for 118 (Pollard 44, McDonald 3-21) by 48 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Victoria re-proved their credentials as the best Twenty20 team in the country with their fourth Big Bash trophy in five years by crushing South Australia's dreamy campaign with a 48-run win. The opener Aaron Finch sparked the Bushrangers with 47 off 34 deliveries and Aiden Blizzard, the Man of the Match, biffed his way to 42 off 19 as they reached 7 for 166.
South Australia lost their captain Graham Manou from the first ball of the chase and never recovered on the way to 9 for 118, despite some flexing from Kieron Pollard. It was an unhappy experience for the Redbacks, who were in their first domestic final for four years, and the result continued a lack of trophy success stretching back to 1995-96. Perhaps they'll win the Champions League Twenty20.
A spot in that tournament is the bonus for reaching the decider and they will hope to have Shahid Afridi, who missed this match due to his Pakistan duties. The Bushrangers were knocked out of the Champions League in India at the semi-final stage last year and after a slow start to this competition they found top form at the important moments. They were beaten on the final ball by New South Wales last year, but there was no doubt about this success from early in the second innings.
Dirk Nannes struck Manou's pads with a full inswinger and in the second over Tom Cooper played on trying to pull James Pattinson. The Victorians made the crowd of 17,722 even quieter when Daniel Harris popped Pattinson to midwicket to have the hosts 3 for 13.
Pollard began the rebuild with some sensible shots before opening his shoulders shortly after the alarm on his watch went off. A six bounced on to a Chappell Stand roof off Jon Holland and two balls later he launched him into the supporters at midwicket, with the over costing 18. Mark Cosgrove also increased the pace until he was bowled playing on trying to heave Andrew McDonald to the legside, ending the stand of 64 at a crucial time.
The key moment came three deliveries later when Pollard forced to midwicket and David Hussey took the ball above his head running backwards. He knew he was heading over the rope so he threw the ball up, regained his poise as he rejoined the field and collected the catch fairly. A surprised Pollard trudged off with 44 off 33 and with South Australia at 5 for 78 their push was over.
McDonald gained 3 for 21 to support the fast men, with Nannes recording an amazing 1 for 8 off four, the most economical figures in the competition's history, and Pattinson getting 3 for 27. It was a smart follow-up from the bowlers after an entertaining batting display.
Finch, who was reprieved in the first over of the game when bowled by a Shaun Tait no-ball, took advantage of his good fortune and bruised Dan Christian with a wagon wheel of four boundaries - to midwicket, cover, square leg and mid-off - as well as four legbyes. He should have been run out on 47, with Gary Putland missing the stumps, but it didn't matter as he went next ball driving Pollard to long off.
Hussey tried to force the pace and found long-on on 15 to give Mark Cleary his first wicket and the following over Matthew Wade top-edged a sweep off Aaron O'Brien, the left-arm spinner. The Bushrangers were 5 for 109 and needed the push of McDonald (25) and Blizzard, who was playing his first game of the season after coming in for Australia's Cameron White.
Tait went for 13 in the 17th over before McDonald holed out off O'Brien, but Blizzard came on and slogged Tait for consecutive legside sixes as the bowler ended with 0 for 42 off four. Blizzard had just enough time to add another clearance off Putland to seal the satisfying total.
O'Brien, who returned an impressive 3 for 26, came on and struck with his third ball when he had Hodge (9) caught and bowled in a crucial blow. Rob Quiney also had a short stay and went with 12 after flicking Putland to deep square leg, leaving the visitors 2 for 70 after nine overs. Cleary bowled an early maiden to Hodge - the first of the competition this summer - and finished with 1 for 28 in an encouraging display, but any hopes of a breakthrough victory were quickly extinguished by a classy opponent.
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo