The culmination of one of the more remarkable Bupa Sheffield Shield seasons is almost upon us and I certainly can’t remember a closer season.
Heading into the last round all six States could still host the final, and in the final hours of the season we saw the bottom three sides leapfrog the top three teams.
Queensland and Tasmania took the top two spots and we will see a replay of last year’s final, however this time in Hobart, not Brisbane.
I was going to give a bit of a preview of the final - but now that Tasmania are in, it feels a bit weird to write too much about a game you are about to play in yourself.
It is easy to see the two teams match up very well.
We have had some great tussles with Queensland over the years and the consistency they have shown across all competitions for a number of years is still the benchmark.
A few key match-ups from each team will be:
Jo Burns and Alex Doolan will both be players to watch with a potential side story to the batter who comes out on top.
Big hundreds in finals are looked upon favourably by selectors and both of these guys are on the cusp of potentially touring the UK in the winter.
Both have had good years - Dools has held down the number three role with the Tigers for a number of years now and his technique and temperament are both well suited to first class cricket.
He has had his best year ever and will be looking to finish the year with a big bang.
Burns’ year hasn’t quite hit the heights of last year, however his form leading into this game shows he is back to his best.
A hundred against us in Brisbane (his best according to Jo) and runs in the second innings to get Queensland to a competitive total in Perth this week mean he will come into the game with his confidence high.
His temperament is very good and his ability to bat a long time will fill the Bulls middle and lower order with confidence.
The battle of the wicket keepers will be an intriguing, divisive and decisive one.
Both Tim Paine and Chris Hartley have their supporters as Australia’s next keeper in waiting.
They are highly accomplished behind the stumps and can both provide key runs.
Their determination and attention to detail regarding their own games means a high price is put on their wickets.
The winner of this tete-a-tete will give their team a huge advantage.
The all-round capabilities of the Jim’s, James Hopes and James Faulkner, have provided many highlights for both the respective finalists across the year.
Both hard hitting lower order batsman, they can provide valuable runs and normally at a good clip.
With the ball in hand they provide the priceless ability to pull a wicket from nowhere (Faulkner describes it as pulling the cat out of the bag...We let him go with that one, but honestly..!).
Perhaps the greatest attribute these two bring to the game is their competitive and combative nature.
Fierce, fair and great to play with and against - another of the match-ups where the victor will go a long way to putting their team in the box seat.
Finally, a match-up that doesn’t really fit.
One a batter, one a bowler - but both the heart beat of their sides.
I won’t hide behind the fact that it has been an absolute thrill, pleasure and honour to play so much cricket with RT Ponting this season.
He continues to amaze and inspire his team mates and I know one of my major motivations for this game is to stand alongside Ricky holding the Sheffield Shield aloft come Tuesday.
Ryan Harris, from an outsider’s point of view has the same effect on Queensland.
He is 100% from the moment they start warming up and his bowling speaks for itself.
If he had managed a better run of fitness throughout the summer he would be in the Australian team without a doubt.
His match intensity, fielding and handy lower order hitting sets a great standard for the Bulls and Tassie have certainly borne the brunt of some Harris inspired Queensland brilliance over the last few years.
The performance of these two will set the benchmark for the match across the five days.
I know I mentioned it earlier, but the two teams do match up very closely.
Queensland’s ability to make and then win finals has been phenomenal. It ensures we won’t be taking anything for granted.
We are certainly thrilled that the last round of results has meant we get the week preparing at home whilst the Bulls have had to fly from Perth to Brisbane and then down south.
But come Friday, any perceived, or real, advantages of a home final go out the window and it all comes down to playing your best game for the season.
Given the season it has been already, why would we expect anything other than an absolute nail-biter to finish it off.
Come on the Tigers!
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia