New South Wales have cruised to a six-wicket victory over Victoria at the MCG on Saturday afternoon, ensuring that all six states still remain in with a chance of making the Sheffield Shield final.
The Blues may have been sitting last on the Shield table heading into this penultimate round of matches in the competition but some impressive bowling from an undermanned attack ensured they walked away with all six points as the Bushrangers' batting once again didn't make the grade.
Bowled out for 128 in their first innings on Thursday, Victoria were always going to be behind the eight ball as New South Wales responded by taking first-innings points with a score of 268.
The Victorians were in all sorts of bother as they were reduced to 4-97 in their second dig on Friday afternoon before a 137-run stand between Cameron White (73) and David Hussey (62) gave the hosts a chance of setting a competitive total.
But when both those set batsmen departed in the early overs on Saturday morning, Victoria were always going to struggle as they were dismissed for 289, with a 150-run target chased down by New South Wales, albeit with a few scares along the way.
Although both the other Shield matches - between Tasmania and Queensland and South Australia versus Western Australia - remain up for grabs, the result sees New South Wales provisionally climb from last on the Shield table into third with 23 points.
Victoria remain on top of the table with 28, but could be overhauled by South Australia if the Redbacks defeat the Warriors.
Although White gave his side a fighting chance of setting New South Wales a decent target with his second-innings 79, the Victorian skipper will also feel slightly responsible for his side's batting collapse on Saturday morning.
Both he and Hussey appeared well in control of proceedings during the first few overs, comfortably picking off the singles as they went about adding to the score.
But six overs into the day's play, White aggressively and unnecessarily attempted to step back and cut Stephen O'Keefe to the boundary, the batsman missing the ball and being bowled.
Fresh from taking five wickets in the first innings, Gurinder Sandhu continued his excellent match for the Blues as he dismissed Hussey four balls later, the bowler tempting him into fishing outside off-stump as he was caught by Trent Copeland at first slip.
Will Sheridan (23) and John Hastings (17) attempted to keep the score ticking along with a 43-run seventh-wicket stand, with Hastings fortunate to survive on four as he was put down by Peter Nevill at first slip, the fielder diving headlong to his right at a difficult chance.
But Nevill made no mistake when he caught Hastings with a blinding catch soon after as New South Wales rapidly wrapped up Victoria's innings.
Although Victoria's batting had generally been poor, New South Wales' attack seriously impressed as O'Keefe (3-54) and Trent Copeland (3-87) claimed three wickets apiece, while Sandhu's 2-57 meant he finished with seven wickets in an impressive debut.
Needing 150 with just over five sessions to play, New South Wales always appeared capable of making the runs, but the visitors did suffer a few scares as Jayde Herrick (1-21) and Fawad Ahmed (1-49) went to work.
Brought on just after lunch, Herrick may have gone for four off a first-ball full toss but he responded with a straighter delivery next up that struck Scott Henry (16) on the pads to send the opener packing.
John Hastings (1-23) had David Dawson (22) caught behind soon after and when Nic Maddinson (17) was trapped in front by a faster delivery from Ahmed, New South Wales were wobbling at 3-60.
Blues skipper Ben Rohrer then survived a big appeal for lbw from Herrick on eight but having established himself at the crease, Rohrer went on to make an unbeaten 38 to help his side make 4-150 with ease in conjunction with Nevill (37) and an unbeaten Brad Haddin (15).
Both sides may have injury concerns heading into the Shield's final round, however, as Doug Bollinger hurt his hamstring and Clint McKay heard an ominous click in his foot while fielding late in New South Wales' second innings and promptly took himself off the field.
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia
First Posted 09 March, 2013 5:55PM AEST