Tasmania secured their second FR Cup title in three seasons and consigned Victoria to a fourth consecutive one-day final loss after Tim Paine's century left the hosts to chase an unreachable 305. Paine and Michael Dighton took advantage of a lacklustre start from Victoria in the field, before Gerard Denton struck three early blows with the ball to set up the 110-run triumph.
Victoria severely felt the absence of their two best limited-overs bowlers, Clint McKay and Dirk Nannes, and two of their star batsmen, Cameron White and David Hussey, all of whom were in New Zealand with the Australian squad. Tasmania were also missing Travis Birt for the same reason but they covered for his loss with confident innings from Paine, Dighton and Ed Cowan.
For the Bushrangers to challenge Tasmania's 6 for 304, they needed a big innings from Brad Hodge and when he drove Denton to cover and was caught for 14, most of the interest in the chase disappeared. Denton had already taken Tasmania's batting momentum and applied it to their bowling by removing Chris Rogers and Aiden Blizzard within the first eight overs.
Rogers played on for 14 and was fuming with himself, after they had already lost Blizzard to a stunning, leaping catch from Rhett Lockyear at backward point. The wonderful take highlighted a stark difference in the fielding standard between the two teams after Blizzard himself had put down Dighton on 42.
Blizzard couldn't hang on to a low but regulation chance at point and it was the second life for Dighton, who had been spilled on 9 by the wicketkeeper Matthew Wade diving to his right. The sloppy work from Victoria contributed to Tasmania's strong start and Dighton and Paine flew out of the blocks following their captain's decision to bat.
Dighton was the dominant partner in the 132-run opening stand and he was in a belligerent batting mood, forcing boundaries all around the ground including one straight down the pitch that nearly collected the bowler John Hastings in the head. He lifted the ball off his pads with ease and capitalised on a lifeless new-ball spell from Darren Pattinson, who in all bowled four overs for 36.
Dighton missed the chance for a century when he was bowled by Hastings for 80 from 91 balls and while the scoring rate dropped a little after his departure, Paine continued to play a vital anchoring role. He was controlled and struck nine fours in his chanceless 100, which came up off 117 deliveries with an overthrow after he initially turned back trying for a single to point.
Paine fell from his next delivery when Wade snared an edge behind up to the stumps off Andrew McDonald but by then the damage was done. Ed Cowan had already contributed a very useful 61 from 55 balls, which included a six down the ground off Bryce McGain, before he was caught at mid-off to become one of three wickets for McDonald.
The Victorian fielding sharpened up in the dying stages, as Wade completed a wonderful leg-side stumping standing up to McDonald to get rid of Jason Krejza, and Blizzard tried to make up for his drop with a direct-hit from the outfield to find Brendan Drew short. But 16 came from Tasmania's last over, and 103 from their final ten, to set Victoria a 300-plus chase.
The early losses derailed Victoria's pursuit and although the stand-in captain McDonald tried to fight back and made 64 alongside Wade's 40, Denton came back to remove McDonald and any slim hopes of a home-town miracle. Denton finished with 5 for 45 as Victoria were bowled out in the 43rd over but it was Paine who was named Man of the Match for setting up the result.
The 50-over format remains Victoria's curse in a successful era during which they have claimed four Twenty20 titles and last summer's Sheffield Shield. They have now lost three FR Cup finals at home - to Tasmania this summer and to Queensland in 2006-07 and 2008-09 - and one away to the Tigers in 2007-08 over the past four seasons.