Jake Doran and Beau Webster have held their nerve against a spirited Victorian outfit to guide Tasmania to a tense four-wicket win that lifted them into the Marsh Sheffield Shield’s top two.
Resuming day four at 4-151 at the MCG with 87 runs required for victory, Will Sutherland (4-69) sent some early jitters through the visitors’ camp with the wicket of Ben McDermott for 46 in the third over of the morning.
But Tigers talisman Beau Webster – who took two sensational slip catches throughout the match – snuffed out any chance of Victoria completing their remarkable fightback with a counter-attacking 38.
After McDermott feathered an edge through to wicketkeeper Sam Harper, Webster found the boundary with his first delivery to assert his influence on the contest.
The 28-year-old hit a futher five boundaries during his 53-ball stay and he and Doran put on 68 for the sixth wicket as Tasmania quickly overhauled the victory target of 238 about 30 minutes before lunch.
And while Webster was out to a classic grab by Fergus O’Neill in gully, who soared high to his right to hang onto the leading edge after the Tasmanian allrounder skipped down the wicket trying to finish the game in a hurry, the visitors were within touching distance as Jarrod Freeman (9no) helped complete the formalities.
Doran’s unbeaten 47 completed a superb match for the Tigers’ wicketkeeper, who top scored with 85 in the first innings that was the only half century across the opening two days on a pitch that offered plenty of assistance to the fast bowlers.
That the match reached a fourth day was a feat in itself for a young Victorian side minus Test squad members Scott Boland and Marcus Harris, and Prime Minister’s XI representatives Peter Handscomb and Todd Murphy.
The hosts were rolled for 121 on the opening day and slipped to 4-77 late on day two, still 22 runs in arrears of Tasmania’s first innings 220, before debutant Sam Elliott (80no), Harper (57) and veteran tweaker Jon Holland (55) rallied to at least give the Vics a total to try and defend.
“At one stage it looked like we were lucky to be getting through to lunch on day three,” Victoria coach Chris Rogers told cricket.com.au after the match.
“That day three was just an amazing day for our guys. I thought the way that the tail went about it to show that there was still fight in us.
“To get us into a position where with a bit of luck, I think we beat the bat seven or eight times there at the end and just couldn’t quite get that edge. If we had of (found the edge) and got a little bit more into the tail, then who knows what would have happened with the way the ball was moving.”
Victoria will welcome back skipper Handscomb and Murphy for their final Shield match before the KFC BBL|12 break, which is a must-win clash against their also winless rivals NSW beginning at Junction Oval on Thursday.
It’s almost season over for the loser of that match, with the top three of Western Australia, Tasmania and Queensland currently nine points clear of the bottom three states.
A relieved Tasmania captain Jordan Silk said post match that the addition of Aussie star Matthew Wade over the past two matches had been a huge boost for their group as they target reaching both the Shield and Marsh Cup finals following two third place finishes last season.
“It’s a group that’s ready to win now, I certainly believe that,” he said.
“I think we performed quite well last season and just missed both finals, so we’re absolutely hungry and we believe we can do one better and get to those finals this year and hopefully win one.
“In the last couple of weeks, reintroducing Wadey (Matthew Wade) back into the group from a batting point of view gives us that added experience, we’ve obviously got that with that ball in Jacko (Jackson Bird) and Sidds (Peter Siddle), but to bring someone like Wadey back in, guys just walk a little bit taller.”
Tasmania will be eyeing another six points against the also winless South Australia back home at Blundstone Arena on Thursday in their final match before the Big Bash.