South Australia have defied a middle-order collapse to earn a four-wicket victory over Victoria in their Ryobi One-Day Cup clash at the MCG on Wednesday evening.
The Redbacks appeared likely to romp it home as openers Michael Klinger (88) and Phil Hughes (73) took South Australia through to 164 without loss in the 34th over in response to Victoria's 8-241.
But when Klinger mis-judged an attempt to work a straighter delivery down leg side and was trapped in front by Scott Boland (5-63), the game's complexion changed completely as Victoria's under-manned bowling attack roared back into life.
Missing strike bowlers like Peter Siddle and John Hastings, who are both with Australia, along with James Pattinson (rib) and John Holland (shoulder), Victoria's attack was dominated by Klinger and Hughes for much of their innings, on a warm, humid night in Melbourne.
But by using some incisive short-pitched bowling following Klinger's dismissal, Victoria's attack started pressuring the Redbacks' batsmen into rash shots, leading to Hughes following in the next over as his attempted pull shot flew straight to Alex Keath at deep square leg.
Callum Ferguson (7), Dan Christian (1) and Tom Cooper (13) all followed in a similar fashion as the South Australians lost 5-25, with Boland taking two of those wickets in a damaging 40th over that left the Redbacks needing 53 to win off the last 10 overs.
As the hecklers in the crowd found full voice, Alex Ross (14) and SA skipper Johan Botha (11 not out) appeared to steady the ship, but when Glenn Maxwell took a classy diving catch off Boland to send Ross packing, South Australia's tail was suddenly exposed.
But ultimately, the Redbacks did enough to hold on as Botha and a hard-hitting Tim Ludeman (26 off 11) saw them home with 20 balls to spare with a score of 6-246.
Despite taking the five wickets, Boland will be left to rue conceding seven wides, the sundries easing the pressure somewhat on South Australia's batsmen.
However, much of the credit for the Redbacks being in a position to overcome their late collapse has to be attributed to another classy bowling performance from Gary Putland.
Fresh from taking an overall 12-92 in the Redbacks' crushing nine-wicket Sheffield Shield win over Victoria on Monday - the Vics' worst loss to South Australia in over a century at the MCG - Putland produced an exceptional second spell during the last 10 overs of Victoria's innings to seriously restrict the Bushrangers' scoring.
Although several Victorian batsmen, like Aaron Finch (46) and Glenn Maxwell (20) got starts, the hosts only began gathering some momentum with the bat as Peter Handscomb (65) and Alex Keath (28) combined for a 74-run sixth-wicket stand.
At 5-204 after the 41st over, with both batsmen having their eye in, Victoria appeared set to post a very competitive total, one that may eventually have proved too much for the visitors.
But Putland had other ideas as he was re-introduced into the attack in the 43rd over, immediately earning himself a wicket-maiden as Keath failed to judge the swing accurately and only managed to send a big slash outside off-stump through to wicket-Keeper Ludeman via a fine edge.
Handscomb followed in the 47th over as Putland managed to deviate the ball off the seam enough to deceive the in-form wicketkeeper, who saw the ball plough into his stumps.
And, after Putland took out Will Sheridan (3) in the same over, he had managed to take 3-11 from his late four-over spell, on the way to having figures of 4-44.
Although Kane Richardson's last over conceded 11 runs, the bowlers' overall good work ensured Victoria only scored 46 off their last 10 overs, an effort that proved very handy as South Australia almost threw away a winning position.
First Posted 28 November, 2012 9:39PM AEST