Two tailenders faced more than 100 balls and survived 15 overs to guide Victoria to an enormous victory in Melbourne.
Two 21-year-olds guided Victoria to a near certain place in the Sheffield Shield final with a stunning rearguard action at the Junction Oval which sent Tasmania’s final chances tumbling on Friday.
Fast bowler Mitch Perry, playing just his second season for Victoria, and spinner Todd Murphy, in just his second game, not only survived 112 balls but put on a 47-run partnership to steer the home team to a thrilling two-wicket win.
A draw between NSW and Western Australia in Sydney earlier in the day means next week’s clash between Victoria and WA, the last game of the Shield season, could determine who hosts the final with the two teams more than likely set to clash again in the decider .
“That was just an incredible game of cricket. At stages, I thought we were gone, ”Victorian coach Chris Rogers said.
“Particularly when we were reliant on younger players to go and get in done, in pretty tough conditions. That was an incredible effort. “
Victoria could also be boosted for next week’s clash by the return of Will Pucovski for that game after he made a successful comeback with two innings in a Second XI match this week.
“We think we can be pretty positive with Will,” Rogers said.
Victoria jumped in to top spot on the table during their final day run chase of just 231, courtesy of the draw in Sydney, after Perry also did the job with the ball snaring 4-31 to put his team in a winning position.
The Vics raced to 0-74 too, before their hold on top spot looked tenuous when wickets tumbled regularly and they slumped to 8-187, still 43 runs short of victory with Tasmania charging.
Playing on effectively an eighth-day pitch, using the same wicket as last week’s clash with Queensland, batting proved difficult and Tasmanian spinners Ben Manenti (3-89) and Tom Andrews (2-50) looked like going through the Victorians.
But Perry, who remained unbeaten on 32 and, and Murphy, who hit a boundary to score the winning runs in his innings of 24, stood firm for 15 overs, thwarting a stoic bowling attempt from warhorse, and former Victorian Peter Siddle, to get their team over the line.
“If you are going to play international cricket you are going to play in conditions like that and we don’t see enough of our young players playing in these spinning conditions,” Rogers said.
“In many ways its good for Australian cricket.”
Victoria finished on 8-234, having declared 21 runs behind Tassie in the first innings to help set-up the thrilling result. Murphy also finished with seven wickets for the match, in a breakthrough performance.
The difference between winning and losing was massive for both teams, with Tassie missing the chance to jump to second ahead of a final clash with NSW next week, and instead slipping to fifth.
The Vics would have fallen out of the top two with a loss, but instead head to Perth next week with the chance to still host the final should they beat WA.
Victorian captain Peter Handscomb proved crucial not with the bat but in the field, setting a new Shield record for non wicketkeepers, taking nine catches for the match, including five in the second innings.
After his team settled for a draw in Sydney, WA coach Adam Voges said the plan for next week’s clash with the Vics was simple.
“It’s a pretty simple equation for us. we need to win next week and if we can do that hopefully we’ll be able to host the Shield final, ”he said.
“Clearly we have plenty to play for. It should make it an exciting week next week.
“It would just be nice to play some cricket at home. It’s been a long summer, we’ve spent a lot of time on the east coast, so we have that incentive to win. ”
The clash between WA and Victoria at the WACA begins next Wednesday, March 23.