Victoria 4 for 325 (Hodge 136*, Finch 61) beat Queensland 300 (Carseldine 105, Reardon 72, Hartley 70, McDonald 4-50) by 25 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Victoria were missing four of their best players to international duty but despite a big scare it didn't matter because they still had Brad Hodge to steer them into the FR Cup final. When Hodge is focused he can cover any hole in the batting order and his unbeaten 136 off 118 deliveries sped the Bushrangers to 4 for 325, a total which stayed just out of reach of Queensland.
Lee Carseldine and Nathan Reardon led a brave chase but the hosts lost 8 for 35 at the end to hand the game to the Bushrangers. Carseldine guided the two-paced pursuit with 105 off 98 while Reardon provided extreme power with five sixes in his 72 from 42.
The Bushrangers, who already own the Twenty20 trophy, get their next chance for another major prize when they host Tasmania in the final on February 28. No other teams could cope without their equivalents of Cameron White, David Hussey, Dirk Nannes and Clint McKay, who are on Australia duty, but Victoria own a Hodge. He carried the batting and while he could not cover the bowling as well, the deficiencies in the attack were overcome by the huge total.
During the innings Hodge passed Jimmy Maher to become the leading run-scorer in the domestic competition, eventually finishing on 4711 as he taught his team-mates and handed out lessons to Queensland's young bowlers. He moved calmly to his half-century, which landed in 61 balls shortly after he eased Chris Simpson for six over long-off. Hodge threatened to swing himself off the rails briefly in the lead-up to his hundred before refocusing and punishing in the 16th domestic one-day century of his home career.
Ben Cutting, the promising fast bowler, was pulled for four and then sliced over cover off the back foot during the batting Powerplay, while Alister McDermott was savaged at the end. Hodge charged at McDermott, who dropped in a reasonable short ball, but the batsman swayed back and hooked a six to square leg.
In the second last over Hodge reverse-glanced McDermott for four through the vacant third slip area and crunched his final six behind square in another powerful swipe. The three clearances sat alongside 10 fours and a host of ugly bowling figures.
McDermott, the 18-year-old swing bowler, went for 81 off his 10 overs, Ben Laughlin gave up 71 and Cutting was taken for 66. Victoria were soon motoring at the start of the innings, with Aiden Blizzard (33) and Chris Rogers (46) providing a strong start before Hodge grabbed control.
Aaron Finch's 61 off 57 deliveries, with two sixes, helped the acceleration in a 126-run stand with Hodge at more than a run a ball. When the late blasts of John Hastings (22) and Andrew McDonald (13) came the game already seemed to be Victoria's.
Queensland started strangely and slowly in the chase, desperately trying not to lose wickets and not bothering about a build-up of dot balls. Ryan Broad, who was lbw to a Darren Pattinson off-cutter, stayed 30 deliveries for his 12 while Chris Hartley's half-century took 82. Just as Hartley started to take off he was caught-and-bowled by Pattinson after toe-ending an attempted pull on 70.
That was the signal for the Bulls to start charging and Carseldine and Reardon put on 130 at more than nine an over to give Queensland hope. Carseldine showed his strength from the 30th over onwards, when the Bulls needed to score at 10 an over, and with Reardon it was a comfortable prospect. They took 52 from the batting Powerplay and then struck 19 off six Bryce McGain deliveries to frighten the visitors.
Andrew McDonald, the captain, struck back when he bowled Carseldine in the 44th over and in the next over Reardon holed out to long-on off McGain. Craig Philipson slipped two balls later to McGain and despite some rapid bursts from Chris Lynn (11) and Simpson (20) the hosts fell 26 short of their target.
McDonald cleaned up with 4 for 50 in a composed performance at the death while McGain's 2 for 81 came off eight overs. Pattinson was impressive with 3 for 45, collecting the final wicket when Simpson heaved to long-on.
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo