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An elusive trophy beckons for perennial one-day bridesmaid

The Sunday Age

Sunday February 27, 2011

Darren Berry

THE domestic one-day final will be staged this afternoon at the MCG, and for the fifth time in a row the Victorian Bushrangers have qualified for the big dance. Can they finally shake the bridesmaid's tag and take the trophy?What happened last year or the year before is irrelevant; this game will be played by different players in different conditions with different rules and different strategies. Purely and simply, the team that executes its game plan and individual skills on the day will be the champion.Tasmania has had a good summer and will more than likely contest the Sheffield Shield final as well as today's one-day final. It fell away in the Big Bash after looking a certain finalist midway through the series. It is a well-drilled and generally disciplined outfit, which makes today's game an exciting prospect. Tasmania has a well-balanced side and will come here expecting to win.Victoria will start favourite, with Brad Hodge and Matthew Wade leading the run-scoring table. Both will be crucial in the outcome. Hodge needs to guide the ship as he has many times before, allowing proteges to hit out around him. He is the rock at No. 3 and without doubt the crucial wicket for Tasmania.Aaron Finch is the brightest batting light to shine in the state since Hodge and Victoria's best chance to next wear the baggy green. He needs a big performance here to remind the selectors of his class as they contemplate next year's CA contracts. He is in good touch and capable of taking the game away from Tasmania with a flying start to the innings.Wade has gone from strength to strength since his arrival in Victoria from his native Tasmania. His recruitment did not sit all that well with the powerbrokers in Hobart, and a good innings today will only pour salt onto the wound. Wade has always been a street fighter and highly respected for his tenacious style. He's an old-fashioned cricketer in a modern player's body. His weakness on arrival was his raw glove work. Mechanical and stiff was the best way to describe it. His first few years behind the stumps were average and Wade himself would acknowledge that now.Coach Greg Shipperd was bullish about Wade's recruitment and his foresight should be commended. His keeping has improved significantly and now he clearly holds his own among the top echelon. He is not far off national selection and may be fighting Tim Paine for the main job when Brad Haddin's days are done.Andrew McDonald's return stiffens the middle order and bolsters leadership. Ryan Carters is the likely omission. Evan Gulbis and Glenn Maxwell should play as they both can change a game with their dangerous hitting. Maxwell smashed Tasmania recently to secure Victoria top spot.The other danger man is Rob Quiney. He gives the Bushrangers a potent and long middle order with another southpaw in Michael Hill.The bowling attack on paper looks good but without Shane Harwood's experience seems a little fragile in the short version of the game. Dirk Nannes needs to fire if the Vics are to win. He has the ability to be a wicket-taker and if on-song can take them in quick succession. Peter Siddle returns after a spell in the paddock in preparation for the main event and along with his Dandenong partner in crime (no pun intended) James Pattinson, has the ability to strike early with the ball. The weakness in both their games is the lack of a plan B. If there is no swing and nothing in the wicket both quicks slide on nicely to the bat, and against batsmen coming at them hard can all-too-quickly become cannon fodder.Jon Holland needs to regain the loop and spin that made him such a likely type a few years back. Many other spinners have gone past Holland in the pecking order for higher honours with far less skill than he possesses. It's hiding in there somewhere, waiting to be unleashed a brave spinner with revolutions on the ball and energy through the crease could just be the answer for the Vics. Energy in the approach, intent at the crease with a high arm and plenty of zip at the point of release are the keys for Holland.Victoria has the cattle to beat Tasmania today and if it does a lot of the credit should be given to assistant coach Simon Helmot, who, in a little known public fact, has actually coached the one-day cup team all summer. Shipperd is the master but his apprentice is a quiet achiever doing all the right things in readiness for when his time comes.Shipperd is highly regarded for his coaching exploits and deserves much credit for the past five years of success. He has been a respected mentor to many players and young coaches, yours truly included. He has allowed Helmot the freedom of putting his stamp on the one-day team, and it may prove a masterstroke.The one trophy that has eluded the Bushrangers in recent times is the one-day title. Tonight that record should be rectified.

© 2011 The Sunday Age

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