Queensland quick Ryan Harris did everything in his power to drag the Bulls back into contention on day four of the Sheffield Shield final against Tasmania, but after a mid-morning resurgence the visitors were repelled by a Tim Paine-led Tigers revival.
Harris did his Ashes prospects no harm in producing an astounding spell early in Tasmania’s second innings on Monday, taking four quick wickets as the Tigers fell to 5-15 before steadying thanks to an invaluable seventh-wicket stand between Paine (87) and James Faulkner (83 not out).
At stumps, the Tigers were 7-240 – boasting a 434-run overall lead – and going into the final day appear to be in an unbeatable position to claim their third Shield title.
But for an hour or so during the morning session they had looked like giving the Bulls a huge chance to mount a comeback and provided local supporters with a couple of very nervous hours.
Having resumed on 7-185, the Bulls tail had wagged long enough to pass the follow-on target, but Evan Gulbis (4-62) nipped in with a couple of quick wickets to help deny the Queenslanders a late stand.
They were all out for 225 when James Hopes (36) was skittled by Faulkner (3-40), gifting the Tigers an imposing 194-run lead – but the match was about to be turned on its head by the tireless Harris.
First innings centurion Jordan Silk was his first victim, chopping on for one, and was soon followed by fellow opener Mark Cosgrove who made just four before playing a Hopes delivery back onto his stumps to leave the Tigers teetering at 2-5.
When Ricky Ponting (one) padded up, George Bailey was clean bowled for a second-ball duck and Jon Wells (one) left a delivery that cannoned into the top of off stump, Harris had taken 4-6 in 33 balls and the Tigers had slumped from a position of power to a decidedly dicey one.
Paine and Alex Doolan (26) safely negotiated their way to lunch with the Tigers 5-33, but Doolan didn’t last long after the break and fell LBW to Cameron Gannon (1-26) to make the home side 6-56 – a lead of just 250 with almost five sessions to play.
From there, though, Paine found a willing partner in Faulkner, the pair playing almost faultless cricket in halting the Bulls’ charge and then building an imposing 161-run partnership – and huge lead for the Tigers.
As the evening session progressed, Harris seemed to suffer as a result of the effort that had seen him bowl a staggering 54 overs for the match and when he was taken out of the attack two overs after tea, the fizz seemed to fade from Queensland’s effort in the field.
The Tigers batsmen continued to chip away, however, both passing 50 and going on to post their highest scores of the season when it mattered most to their side.
As the seventh wicket partnership moved past 150 runs, the Tasmanian lead went to 400 and what had looked so promising for the Bulls several hours earlier began to look hopeless.
With a famous ton in the offing, Paine played one shot too many when he tried to pull a short ball from Hopes (2-76) and only managed to spoon a catch to Joe Burns at midwicket in an underwhelming end to a brave innings.
At stumps, Faulkner had Luke Butterworth (14) beside him and the pair were cheered from the ground by relieved teammates and thrilled supporters, all aware that by the same time on Tuesday the Tigers will be Shield champions.
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia
First Posted 25 March, 2013 6:53PM AEST