Hobart: Tasmania, the only State never to have won the coveted Sheffield Shield, has become favourites to host this season's final after dominating New South Wales (NSW) on Wednesday on the opening day of the final round of qualifying matches.
While the Islanders hugely boosted their chances of figuring in a home showdown, current table leaders Queensland had a miserable start to its match against Victoria in Brisbane and face the possibility of emerging pointless from the clash. Pace trio Shane Jurgensen (five for 38), Gerard Denton (two for 41) and David Saker (two for 56) starred for Tasmania as they bundled out New South Wales for a first innings 164 at Bellerive Oval. This was despite a fine return to first-class ranks by former Test opener Michael Slater, who hit 50, and a valuable 53 from Matthew Phelps. The bowlers' class act was followed by positive batting from Jamie Coxnot and Scott Mason as Tasmania reached 126 for one wicket by stumps when they trailed by only 38 runs. Queensland was delighted when it ousted Victoria for a paltry 148 at the 'Gabba Ground as Zimbabwe-born 19-year-old left-arm paceman Scott Brant snatched three for 23. Speedsters Jo Dawes (two for 26), Ashley Noffke (two for 21) and Michael Kasprowicz (two for 64) also weighed in with good efforts. But Queensland fared even worse at the batting crease, crumbling to 64 for six as paceman William Carr grabbed four for 22 and Matthew Innes two for 12. In Perth, middle-order left-hander Marcus North followed up a double century in his last game with an unbeaten 103 as Western Australia kept alive its hopes of reaching the Shield final. After being sent in by South Australia, Western Australia stroked 272 for four wickets.
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