The margin of victory was convincing, but it was not until deep into the final hour that Mitchell Swepson, who sent down 45.2 overs in the second innings, clinched the match-winning wicket after Tasmania's lower order had threatened to hold on. Michael Neser had set the game up on the opening day with 5 for 32, which he then followed with a maiden first-class century that built on Marnus Labuschagne's 167 to ensure a huge lead.
The game of the season came down to the final pair with Harry Conway surviving four balls with the scores level after Nathan Lyon had been run out. Sean Abbott held his nerve to just clear the in-field with the winning stroke. It was a high-quality nip-and-tuck encounter throughout. Labuschagne scored an opening-day hundred before vital half-centuries from Abbott and Peter Nevill meant it was almost level on first innings. Trent Copeland then produced one of the spells of summer to claim 5 for 17 off 18 overs - at one point he had 5 for 7 from 15 overs - to set up a target of 206. At 3 for 124 things looked in hand, but Swepson took his match haul to 10 for 171 and almost pulled it off for Queensland.
Swepson was again the hero for Queensland as he clinched victory with three late wickets and 20 minutes to spare - during a marathon second-innings stint of 52 overs - after they looked like being denied in a game they dominated from start to finish. However, it was Mark Steketee who burst the game open on the final afternoon when he broke a fifth-wicket stand of 218 between Callum Ferguson and Harry Nielsen. The match had been set up by centuries from Usman Khawaja, Matt Renshaw and Jimmy Peirson before Swepson's five-wicket haul help skittle the Redbacks for 154.
Khawaja's classy unbeaten 115 secured an impressive run chase in a match where Queensland - missing the injured Swepson - had been behind the running almost throughout. Caleb Jewell's century gave Tasmania a handy total then Queensland collapsed from 1 for 124 to 7 for 161 before Joe Burns constructed a magnificent 171 - which was 62% of the total - to keep them within touching distance. Stekette and Xavier Bartlett struck often enough to keep the lead manageable then a stand of 137 between Labuschagne and Khawaja broke the back of the chase.
A road of a pitch was the winner at the Gabba in a game mostly remembered for Cameron Green's 251. There rarely looked like being a result once it was clear there wouldn't be a chase created as Queensland batted on to 9 for 600 with hundreds from Renshaw and Bryce, while Labuschagne fell eight short of another. With a lead of 142 there was a glimmer of panic from Western Australia when they were then 4 for 67, but Hilton Cartwright and Jake Carder saw out time.
Only 76 overs were possible across the first two days at Allan Border Field where Marcus Harris' century held Victoria together in tricky conditions
Although the rain cleared after the first day and the new Ian Healy Oval had good drainage, the outfield could not recover from the deluge as the players were left kicking their heels.
Either team could still have missed the final with a defeat here if Western Australia had beaten Tasmania but that scenario did not eventuate and Queensland were able to keep top spot. A reshaped New South Wales batting order responded strongly from the 32 all out against Tasmania led by Jason Sangha's 103, but Labuschagne followed with a hundred of his own in a solid reply while Lyon toil through 48 overs for six wickets. The most significant aspect of the match became the early return of Swepson who produced a ripping leg-break in the second innings to remove Daniel Hughes.
New South Wales
A flat pitch at Park 25 was good for a few batting averages but not the chance of a result. New South Wales were unsteady at 3 for 71 but Moises Henriques and Dan Solway added 244 before Nevill and Abbott put on an unbroken 118. Green's 197 was the dominant figure in Western Australia's reply and when there was a chance of the Blues taking a lead, he added 137 for the eighth wicket with Matt Kelly before being given lbw three short of a double when he appeared to nick it. Abbott show superb stamina to take 6 for 89.
An extraordinary comeback from New south Wales after being bundled out for 64 on the opening day. Despite a century from Jordan Silk, they managed to keep Tasmania just in sight and then set about atoning with the bat. Henriques and Nick Larkin hit hundreds to build the lead before the game was taken away by an unbroken stand of 189 between Abbott, with his maiden first-class hundred, and Mitchell Starc, who was somewhat miffed to be denied his chance of a first ton. At 3 for 153 midway through the final day, Tasmania had a chance of a draw but Lyon and Starc worked through the middle order as they lost 7 for 49.
A pitch that aided the spinners provided an enthralling, low-scoring contest at the SCG which the visitors claimed in a tense run chase despite Lyon taking his match haul to ten wickets. New South Wales had struggled to 165 on the first day, but Lyon took a Shield best 6 for 21 as Victoria lost 8 for 48 to claim a lead of just 35. However, the Blues then collapsed to 8 for 91 against the Victoria pace attack before Abbott's 73 helped the last two wickets add 84 and set a tricky target. At 5 for 87 anything was possible, but 18-year-old Jake Fraser-McGurk played an excellent innings.
This match was also in Sydney due to a Covid-19 outbreak in Melbourne and this time New South Wales dominated, but were denied victory by Peter Handscomb's fine century. Conway's career-best 6 for 39 kept Victoria to 190, while Henriques' 141 alongside Nevill's 74 built a formidable advantage. The pitch, though, did not break up as may have been imagined and became more docile over the final two days while some time was also lost to rain.
New South Wales kept the game open by declaring significantly behind South Australia's big first innings then benefited from the home side's willingness to make a contest of it. After Kurtis Patterson's hundred (his one significant score of the season) it needed further contributions from Nevill, Abbott and Starc to ensure New South Wales weren't in trouble. They were then set 295 on the final day with David Warner providing a strong platform that was superbly finished off by Henriques and Abbott in a stand of 141 in 30 overs.
A record-breaking collapse for New South Wales: bowled out for 32, their lowest first-class total. Jackson Bird took 7 for 18 in an innings that lasted 19.3 overs, while Abbott was unable to bat in the match after splitting his webbing on the opening day. After 2.2 overs of the innings, the scorecard was made up of five zeroes: three dismissed batsmen and two yet to score. Even with a lead of 301, Tasmania did not enforce the follow-on but it was just a matter of time. Having been left a target of 493 in two days, New South Wales slumped to 6 for 94 in their second innings.
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo