Bryce McGain all but secured his place on the tour of South Africa and a spot in the final for Victoria with a five-wicket haul that delivered the Bushrangers a tense 25-run win at the MCG. Callum Ferguson struck a confident 115 on the day he was called into Australia's one-day side but it was not enough for South Australia, who threw away a strong start and lost their last man with 3.3 overs remaining.
The Redbacks were chasing 315 and appeared to be cruising at 3 for 162, with Michael Klinger and Ferguson both well set. But a brain-fade from Klinger (59), who was bowled attempting an ugly cross-bat slog against Damien Wright, left Ferguson as the key. As Ferguson's partners fell around him, a draw loomed as the best outcome for South Australia.
However, as he started to find the boundary more freely in the final hour, the target came closer and closer and Victoria's stand-in captain Andrew McDonald sent his men back to protect the rope. But two strikes in one McGain over changed the match again as he ended a 43-run stand between Ferguson and Matthew Weeks.
McGain collected his fourth wicket when Weeks smashed a full toss to deep square leg and was brilliantly caught by Dirk Nannes, who made a running take well above head height. Three balls later, Ferguson was caught at long-off by Adam Crosthwaite, who usually wears wicketkeeping gloves but was playing as a specialist batsman.
It meant a return of 5 for 104 for McGain after he earlier trapped Daniel Harris lbw and had Cameron Borgas and Graham Manou both caught at bat-pad. The end came when Peter George was caught behind off Nannes, justifying McDonald's declaration and pushing Victoria 12 points clear on the table, though not technically assured of a spot in the final.
The Redbacks remain in last place and the result comes as the South Australian Cricket Association and Darren Lehmann continue to bicker in public. Lehmann was reported to be considering fighting for a place on the struggling state's board and was hoping to remove Ian McLachlan, the chairman, and Mike Deare, the chief executive. "Darren Lehmann's latest attack on SACA and the Redbacks is unforgiveable," McLachlan said.