Faulkner, Paine build huge lead for Tasmania
Tasmania 419 (Silk 108, Butterworth 86, Hopes 4-71, Harris 3-107) and 7 for 240 (Paine 87, Faulkner 83*, Harris 4-32) lead Queensland 225 (Forrest 56, Gulbis 4-62) by 434 runs
There was a fleeting moment when the engraver walked away from the Shield and the game sprung to life. One fleeting moment when Tasmania felt vulnerable for the first time in the match, and Queensland could actually see an avenue to a victory that had previously seemed as far away as Brisbane is from Hobart.
Ryan Harris provided the moment, and gave us a glimpse of what the Australian Test team has been missing. He bowled Jonathan Wells for his fourth scalp in six overs of quality pace bowling to leave Tasmania teetering at 5 for 15 in the second innings, with a lead of 209.
But the ray of light dimmed as soon as it appeared, thanks to the class of Tim Paine and the tenacity of James Faulkner. The pair combined for a chanceless 161 across two sessions of near faultless batting.
They negated the uneven bounce and reverse swing superbly. Faulkner's defence was resolute and he manoeuvred the ball into gaps with great efficiency. He continued to push his case as a potential international allrounder with his highest first-class score and has a chance for a maiden century on the fifth day.
Meanwhile, Paine showed the exceptional class and maturity that once had observers predicting him to be the next Australia captain. His bat was straight and broad throughout. He stayed legside of the ball and kept his front pad out of the way to take the lbw out of play. Paine's timing was terrific on a slow surface and his placement equally impressive. He fell an 13 runs shy of his second hundred, miscuing a pull to midwicket off James Hopes in the shadows of stumps.
The partnership was the fourth highest for the seventh wicket in the history of the Sheffield Shield final. They fell just short of the 163-run stand set by Sean Clingeleffer and Luke Butterworth in Tasmania's first Shield triumph six years ago.
Initially, it was Paine and Alex Doolan who showed cool heads and steady hands after the carnage caused by Harris.
The first two wickets of the collapse were more luck than skill. Both Jordan Silk and Mark Cosgrove, who combined so patiently for 133 on day one, dragged wide balls onto their stumps to start the rot.
Ricky Ponting shouldered arms to an inswinger from Harris and was given out appropriately. Umpire John Ward had no choice but to raise his finger, despite the knowledge that it might have ended Ponting's last innings in Australian first-class cricket. The former captain has been non-committal about his future with Tasmania, and the Bulls had given him an ovation when he walked onto the field.
Two balls after Ponting's exit, George Bailey had his stumps shattered by Harris. Wells followed not long after, committing the same error as Ponting, and Tasmania were suddenly under pressure for the first time in the match.
Harris took 4 for 10 in a fabulous spell that would have caught the eye of the Australian selectors. But Doolan and Paine showed poise. They combined for 41 before Doolan was trapped in front by Cameron Gannon. Then Paine and Faulkner snuffed out any hope of a Queensland win as the bowlers failed to threaten on a surface that is getting slower and lower.
Earlier, the Bulls first innings limped past 200 as James Hopes and Nathan Hauritz made a steady start to the extended day. However, Hauritz gifted Evan Gulbis his fourth wicket of the innings with a meek return catch. Faulkner then pinned Harris lbw and yorked Hopes with a brilliant slower ball to add three wickets to his impressive batting displays in both innings.
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Perth