The signs aren't promising for a Queensland victory in this week's Sheffield Shield final. The MCG has treated the Bulls poorly over the past couple of seasons, the hosts haven't lost there in 13 first-class games and the visitors' batting has been inconsistent. On top of that they have to win outright on the toughest pitch in the country to force a result.
Chris Simpson and his developing team know what they are up against and instead are looking at building on a season in which they have over-achieved. Reaching the final, which starts on Wednesday, is a satisfying result for a Shield squad that lost Martin Love, Andrew Symonds, Shane Watson and Ashley Noffke after it was runner-up in last year's decider.
"Throughout the whole season we've had a side without much experience and we've performed fairly well, making in-roads in the short forms, and now being here in the final for Shield cricket," the captain Simpson said. "We've got a good team, this time last year we were in the same situation, this year we're minus a couple of our greats, so too are they. I think it will be an even match."
The venue has changed from 2008-09 when the game was squeezed to the Junction Oval and ended in a soggy draw. However, being back at the MCG makes it even more difficult for the Bulls as they attempt to be the sixth visiting team in 28 finals to upset the home side. A drop-in pitch doesn't break up as much as a traditional surface, meaning the bowlers have to frustrate the batsmen into mistakes.
Simpson expects to deliver a lot of overs of offspin while James Hopes' medium pace will also be called on to tie down the local run-makers. It is a change in focus for the attack after Ben Cutting and the swing bowlers, Chris Swan and Luke Feldman, created so much damage on Brisbane's green surfaces over the past month.
In November the Bulls were at the MCG for a Shield game and were dismissed for 195 and 133 on the way to an innings loss. And last year they were worn down in the week before the final when Victoria scored 8 for 806 declared.
"We've also got good memories of winning the one-day comp [there last year]," Simpson said. "It's undoubtedly the most difficult place to win in domestic cricket, as the last few years have shown. As we've also shown, if you're in a final pressure can play a handy part, that's what we'll be trying to do."
Victoria-Queensland contests are often spicy, especially in deciders, and the latest clash occurred last month when Andrew McDonald was unhappy to be given out caught at short leg. Queensland went on to win by a wicket after a 56-run stand between the final pair.
Greg Shipperd, the Victoria coach, believes the rivalry of the past decade is overplayed. Stuart Law was a target during Queensland's win in 1999-2000 and the tension increased four years later when Victoria brought up 710 in their first innings at the MCG. Jimmy Maher didn't forget the experience and led Queensland to 6 for 900 before declaring in their 2005-06 success.
"It's an on-going thing for the past 10 years," Simpson said. "We've ended up against each other in finals, and if you've got the two best teams doing that, there'll be little phases where different incidents will happen. Run-ins may occur to spice things up. It adds a little bit of character to our rivalry."
What Queensland need most is a big first innings to keep them in the match and Simpson is looking to the openers Wade Townsend and Ryan Broad to play a major role. Townsend scored a competition record of 311 not out for Toombul in a Brisbane grade semi-final on Saturday and was being pushed along by his batting partner Maher.
"The most important thing about that is Wade got to spend time in the middle with Jimmy a few days out from a final," Simpson said. "I don't think you could ask for a better preparation than that."
The Bulls have two uncapped players in their 13-man squad in Ben Dunk and Jason Floros. Unless there are injuries the young duo are there for the experience. Given the history between the teams, it will be a memorable week.
Queensland squad Ryan Broad, Wade Townsend, Lee Carseldine, James Hopes, Chris Lynn, Chris Hartley (wk), Ben Dunk, Jason Floros, Chris Simpson (capt), Cameron Boyce, Ben Cutting, Luke Feldman, Chris Swan.
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo