Tasmania has won its third Bupa Sheffield Shield in convincing style on Tuesday.
Having entered the decider needing just a draw to claim the title, the Tigers pressured Queensland from the outset and were still pushing for an outright victory when time was called on an absorbing final.
The Bulls had scrapped their way to 6-183 at stumps, Chris Hartley (23) and Michael Neser (18) the not out batsmen in front of 2070 supporters at a sun-soaked Blundstone Arena.
It was a fairytale finish for departing coach Tim Coyle and provides veteran superstar Ricky Ponting, named player of the competition during the post-match presentations, the icing on a remarkable 20-year career for state and country.
While Coyle has already made his intentions clear, it remains to be seen whether Ponting opts to play on for the Tigers after finally winning a Shield, a prospect cricket fans around the country must be hoping for given the vintage form he’s shown this season.
For Tasmania, it’s a second Shield win in three seasons and the third time they’ve been crowned domestic champions since 2006/07, capping a remarkable run of success for the island state under Coyle’s tutelage.
Leading by 434 runs with three wickets in hand coming into the final day, the Tigers were never at risk of losing the match – but the home side still fancied their chances of finishing in emphatic fashion by conjuring 10 Bulls wickets on an unresponsive surface.
It wasn’t to be, but the Tigers clearly had the best of a final that was set up with determined batting during the first two days after George Bailey won the toss last Friday.
After losing Luke Butterworth (17), James Faulkner (89) and Ben Hilfenhaus (zero) in quick succession on Tuesday morning, the Tigers were dismissed for 251 in their second innings and took the field midway through the first session with 87 overs to bowl the Bulls out.
Given the cautious start from Greg Moller (13) and Luke Pomersbach (four), Queensland never entertained the possibility of chasing down the 446 required for victory and looked decidedly shaky leading up to lunch.
Peter Forrest (eight) joined the Queensland openers back in the sheds before the break when Evan Gulbis (1-42) bowled him and it was down to Joe Burns (32) and Nathan Reardon (51) to guide the visitors to lunch at 3-37.
The pair added 63 for the fourth wicket, safely negotiating most of the second session before Butterworth (2-30) snuck one through Burns in the over before tea to leave the visitors at 4-95 and playing for pride alone.
Hartley joined the dogged Reardon and the pair set about blunting the Tigers attack for the final time.
Reardon brought up a fighting half-century with a nick to third man that just evaded the outstretched glove of Tim Paine and was out two overs later when Hilfenhaus (2-56) trapped him leg before wicket.
James Hopes (10) could only survive 22 deliveries before missing a straight one from Butterworth, giving the Tigers 9.5 overs to prise out the final four Queensland wickets.
Fielders crowded the bat, hoping for a catch to pop in their direction but the Bulls were able to hang on to the death even despite Tasmania taking a second new ball with seven overs remaining.
With the Ryobi Cup trophy safely in their keeping and Brisbane Heat having won the Big Bash League, the Bulls were hoping to defend their Shield title and hold all three domestic trophies – and were far from disgraced despite playing from behind from day one in Hobart.
The Tigers had asserted control with a measured first innings 419 and despite letting the Bulls back into the contest when Ryan Harris proved his class on day four, were never genuinely threatened in pursuit of the trophy.
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia
First Posted 26 March, 2013 6:09PM AEST