|Tiger Ponting - successive Shield tons|
Four teams finished within two points of each other, with Queensland, Tasmania and Victoria all finishing on 36 points and Western Australia fourth on 34. Victoria missed a place in the final by the narrowest of margins. Queensland deserved their top spot, winning one more game than they others, taking six wins from their ten games. Both of the finalists have two batsmen in the top ten run scorers for the season, with Qlds Joe Burns (745) and Wade Townsend (603) up against Tasmania's Ed Cowan (844) and George Bailey (697). The Tasmanians have the advantage of experience playing for Australia this season in varying forms and of course, there's that little bloke Ponting who's back playing in the apple cap and already has a couple of tons since his return.
Not only does the batting look strong for the Tigers but their bowling has developed an awesome touch. Even without Ben Hilfenhaus, the trio of Jackson Bird, James Faulkner and Luke Butterworth have 107 Shield wickets between them this season and with the spin of Jason Krejza, its a good attack. Queensland have Ben Cutting, Steve McGoffin and Alastair McDermott who are no slouches themselves but when weighing up the relative strengths of the batting line ups, its the Qld attack which will have to work harder.
Over five days at a venue which treats its quick bowlers well but allows batsmen to play shots, the final looks destined for a result and one which isn't likely to make the locals happy. Tasmania might have just scraped in but they are the better side, especially with Ricky Ponting having only this game to tune up for a three Test series in the West Indies in three weeks time and in hot form.
Here's hoping Queenslanders turn up in droves because they are the only ones who'll be able to see the game after FOX dropped their planned coverage, owing to, they said, the massive coverage of football that was scheduled for the weekend AND ... wait for it ... the amount of coverage afforded to the BBL in January. Who was it said that the Sheffield Shield wouldn't be affected in any way by BBL? Right. Didn't believe you then and don't believe you now.
STOP PRESS: Fox have backtracked on their earlier decision not to broadcast the Sheffield Shield Final, following meetings with Cricket Australia. The match will now be shown in full on one of their main sports channels and streamed on the internet for non paying customers.