Boland makes his return count to lift Victoria in finals race

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Victoria 7 for 1 trail Western Australia 244 (Boland 4-41) by 237 runs

Scott Boland returned from New Zealand to help Victoria claim an early advantage in their must-win Sheffield Shield clash with Western Australia.

The 34-year-old was an invaluable inclusion for Victoria after being released from Australia’s Test squad having been deemed surplus to requirements for the 2-0 series victory over New Zealand.

Boland toiled away in hot conditions on Monday to take 4 for 41, helping bowl WA out for 244 after Victoria captain Will Sutherland won the toss and sent the visitors in to bat at the Junction Oval in Melbourne.

Sutherland’s decision was looking questionable when WA moved to 203 for 4. But Boland, Fergus O’Neill (3-48) and spinner Todd Murphy (2-54) helped trigger a collapse of 6 for 41.

“I would have liked to have stayed over in New Zealand if I was playing, but there was an opportunity to play back here,” Boland said. “I’ve spent so much time carrying the drinks this year so it’s been nice to be back on the field. Credit to our whole bowling group, we stuck to our plans that we wanted to implement to their batters.”

Most of the WA top-order got starts, but Jayden Goodwin finished top scorer with 43. Aaron Hardie and Hilton Cartwright battled hard during their knocks but could never settle

Victoria had to face five overs before stumps, losing in-form opener Nic Maddinson to Cameron Gannon for 2.

Former Test batter Peter Handscomb is due to come in at No. 5 in his 100th Shield match.

Dual reigning champions, WA need to avoid losing to be assured of reaching a third successive decider. Sitting second on the table, the visitors can still make the final with a draw.

But Victoria – one place lower on the ladder – will be pushing hard to force a result after losing the last two finals against WA.

Tasmania, who last won a Shield title in 2012-13, are in the box seat to host the final after losing just once this season.

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