THE Queensland Bulls have a reputation of gate-crashing Victoria's domestic one-day finals parties at the MCG, beating the Bushrangers twice in the season finale at the venue in the past six years.
Now the Queenslanders have their sights on completing a hat-trick of victories in Melbourne today in the Ryobi Cup decider, and captain James Hopes and wicket-keeper Chris Hartley will join an elite group if the Bulls can get up.
If the Bulls, who finished second behind the Victorians at the end of the eight-round competition, win, Hopes and Hartley will have won three national one-day championships with the Queenslanders, something only five other players have accomplished.
Allan Border won three from three, Jimmy Maher tasted success in three of his eight finals, while the other three-time winners are left-arm paceman Geoff Dymock (four finals), all-rounder Andrew Symonds (five finals), and paceman Andy Bichel (six finals).
Hartley, the leading run scorer for Queensland in the competition this season with 315 runs in seven games, has a good strike-rate, having won two titles from the three finals in which he has appeared. Hopes has two from four.
While the skipper said he was thrilled to have the chance to join some Queensland legends with three wins alongside his name, he said that statistic was furthest from his mind.
"You cannot afford to think what might be - we have to concentrate on trying to beat the Vics first and that won't be easy," he said.
"The games between us are always tough and I have no doubt today's will be no different. There are some great match-ups across the park."
Hopes might have to do without off-spinner Nathan Hauritz today - he's struggling with a sore calf after his marathon bowling stint of 54.3 overs in a Sheffield Shield match last week where he claimed 5-135 against the Bushrangers at the MCG. Cameron Boyce and Jason Floros have been added to the squad as cover.
The Victorian line-up includes the two highest run-scorers in the competition with Aaron Finch (497 runs from six matches) and David Hussey (350 from six).
The Bulls will be particularly wary of Finch, who is averaging 99.40, after he blasted 154 - the second highest score of the season - against them at the Gabba.
Victorian Bushrangers: Cameron White (c), Fawad Ahmed, Aaron Finch, Peter Handscomb, John Hastings, Michael Hill, David Hussey, Clint McKay, Darren Pattinson, Rob Quiney, Chris Rogers, Will Sheridan.
Queensland Bulls: James Hopes (c), Joe Burns, Peter Forrest, Cameron Gannon, Ryan Harris, Chris Hartley, Nathan Hauritz, Alister McDermott, Greg Moller, Michael Neser, Luke Pomersbach, Nathan Reardon, Cameron Boyce, Jason Floros.
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