Gulbis takes Tasmania closer to title
Tasmania 419 (Silk 108, Butterworth 86, Hopes 4-71) lead Queensland 7 for 185 (Forrest 56, Gulbis 3-39) by 234 runs
A two-hour rain delay was the defining moment of day three. Not a match-winning spell, or a spectacular catch, nor a rear-guard innings. A ten-minute downpour early in the first session led to a two-hour delay and Queensland's pursuit of Tasmania's mountainous first innings total got stuck in the mud as a result.
The final was already in Tasmania's grasp before the local weather did the home team a favour. The Bulls had battled to 2 for 60 when the rain hit. Luke Pomersbach was bowled by Luke Butterworth from around the wicket in the tenth over of the morning. The ball shot under Pomersbach's vertical bat as the variable Bellerive bounce began to leave an indelible mark on the match.
Upon resumption, the Bulls found scoring difficult to come by. The Tigers pace men targeted the stumps all day and used reverse swing to tremendous effect.
Peter Forrest was obdurate, if not defiant, accumulating a patient half-century. But he could not find consistent support.
Both Nathan Reardon and Joe Burns nicked balls that angled in from around the wicket and tailed away.
Chris Hartley survived numerous close lbw shouts and a dropped catch by Paine. But the Tigers keeper spent a large part of his day up to the stumps to the pace bowlers and the deflection was too great for him to grasp.
Evan Gulbis picked up his second wicket in the late afternoon sun when he trapped Forrest on the crease for 56. The former Victorian all-rounder, in just his seventh first-class match, was the pick of the bowlers as he attacked the stumps consistently and swerved the ball both ways at good pace.
The Bulls then aided Tasmania's cause with a needless run out. Hartley was caught ball-watching as James Hopes called for a quick single. He was found only inches short after a high throw from Faulkner at mid-off, but those inches were lost in the delayed response to Hopes' call.
Gulbis picked up a well-deserved third when Michael Neser scratched a good length ball through to Paine in fading light.
The umpires deemed the light insufficient for play not long after. It spared Hopes and Nathan Hauritz a torrid period of batting, but in reality it only delays their difficulties until tomorrow. The Tigers need only a draw to claim their third Sheffield Shield title but Queensland need something extraordinary to turn this match around.
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Perth