Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth
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Stumps Victoria 2 for 71 (Harris 48*, Stobo 1-22) trail Western Australia 122 (Cartwright 27, Turner 27, Boland 4-29, Holland 3-15, Sutherland 3-33) by 51 runs
Test quick Scott Boland tore through league leaders Western Australia with four wickets on his Sheffield Shield return as a desperate Victoria dominated the opening day of their must-win match at the WACA.
With their final's hopes on the line, Victoria routed WA for 122 before reaching stumps at 2 for 71.
Former Test opener Marcus Harris was in sparkling touch to thwart a weakened WA attack missing quicks Joel Paris and Matt Kelly. He hit several sweet drives and counterattacked short bowling with cavalier cut shots over the slips.
Veteran Travis Dean and emerging batter Ashley Chandrasinghe fell cheaply, but Harris was unperturbed to finish unbeaten on 48 and consolidate Victoria's early grip on the contest.
Released from his touring duties in India, having only played in the first Test, Boland made an instant impact with 4 for 29 from 15 overs in a typically miserly performance.
Having already secured a home final starting on March 23, and just six days after their triumph in the 50-over Marsh Cup, WA were relatively subdued in what is effectively a dead rubber for them.
But third-placed Victoria are locked in a fierce battle with Queensland, who they narrowly trail on the ladder, as the Bushrangers eye redemption having fallen short against WA in last season's final.
In sunny conditions, Sutherland elected to bowl and it proved a masterstroke with Boland showing no signs of fatigue having scrambled back from India with Victoria's season in the balance.
He conceded just nine runs in his first six-over spell to tie down WA's prolific openers Cameron Bancroft and Sam Whiteman.
It was a stalemate of a start amid a smattering of fans in a contrast to the festive atmosphere of last week's Marsh Cup final.
But Sutherland sparked the contest with his towering frame conjuring awkward bounce to remove Whiteman for a painstaking nine off 63 deliveries.
Victoria's terrific first session was capped by Boland having Bancroft, the Shield's leading run scorer, caught behind for 24 on the stroke of lunch.
WA staggered into the long break at 3 for 45 from 28 overs and spiralled further after the resumption when allrounder Aaron Hardie was brilliantly caught by a diving Mitchell Perry at forward square-leg.
Playing his first Shield match since October 2020, Ashton Turner attempted to perform a rescue job like he has done countless times as skipper for BBL champions Perth Scorchers.
Turner mixed firm defence with the occasional flourish to combine with Hilton Cartwright in a steadying 41-run partnership.
But they both fell for 27 as WA fell away and were bowled out in 61 overs to record their second lowest total of the season.
Victoria romp to seven-wicket win to secure Shield final berth against WA
Harris, Short and Kellaway steer Victoria to victory in a short chase to seal their second straight Sheffield Shield final appearance against WA next week
Boland and O'Neill put Victoria on cusp of sealing final spot
Cartwright's lone hand could not give WA substantial lead on rain-curtailed day
Boland strikes again after Harris and Short sparkle for Victoria
Victoria are closing in on the Sheffield Shield final after another strong day at the WACA