Victoria 487 and 6 for 254 (Finch 83, Christian 53*) lead South Australia 287 by 454 runs
A third consecutive Sheffield Shield title for Victoria appears all but certain after the Bushrangers ground South Australia in to the Alice Springs dust on the fourth day of the final. Needing only to draw to lift the Shield, Victoria batted without urgency throughout the day; they started in the morning on 2 for 38 and added 216 over the course of the day, for the loss of a further four wickets.
That meant that by stumps Victoria's lead had swollen to 454 runs, and even the most diehard South Australia supporter would agree that to overhaul a target of at least that magnitude on the final day will be essentially impossible. At the close of play Victoria were on 6 for 254, with Daniel Christian unbeaten on 53 from 178 deliveries and Seb Gotch on 29 from 115.
The day began encouragingly for the Redbacks, when nightwatchman Chris Tremain edged behind off Daniel Worrall to give Alex Carey an all-time record 59th dismissal for the Shield season. But to have a realistic victory chance, South Australia needed to run through the Bushrangers cheaply after that; instead, a series of stubborn Victoria partnerships ensured the lead grew to daunting proportions.
Aaron Finch combined with opener Travis Dean for a 66-run stand that ended when Dean sent a catch to short cover off Adam Zampa's legspin for 38 from 86 balls. Cameron White fell cheaply when he was lbw to Joe Mennie for 4, but Finch and Daniel Christian then put together a 39-run sixth-wicket stand to steady Victoria again.
Such was the desperation of South Australia's captain Travis Head that by stumps he had tried nine bowlers, with only Carey and Callum Ferguson not having been called upon. However, one of those changes brought a surprise breakthrough when opening batsman Jake Weatherald, bowling his first over of legspin at state level, found a way through Finch to bowl him for 83.
However, it was to prove the last wicket of the day as Christian and Gotch then bedded in for a partnership that by stumps had reached 71 runs and had occupied 39 overs. If Victoria's approach was not exactly the finest advertisement for the Shield final, which has been under threat in the domestic calendar in recent years, it should at least ensure the first hat-trick of Shield titles in the state's long history.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale