Victoria need 102 runs with eight wickets in hand to claim a Sheffield Shield victory against South Australia after a James Pattinson-inspired bowling performance at the MCG.
Pattinson ripped through the Redbacks’ top order on Monday’s third day before a stubborn late fightback led by tailender Chadd Sayers.
The visitors were bowled out for 230 in their second innings.
Chasing a target of 124 to win, Victoria lost Marcus Harris (7) and first- innings century-maker Peter Handscomb (2), during a tricky 12-over period before stumps.
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Travis Dean (10) and Cameron White (2) were able to guide their side to 2-22 at the close of play.
In his first Shield game since the 2016/17 final and back surgery last November, Pattinson had figures of 3-24 from nine overs in the Redbacks’ second innings.
“I only bowled a few overs so I’m feeling good,” Pattinson told AAP.
“It’s not bad for my first game back … it was handy to get a few wickets and I’m feeling as good as I could be, I suppose.
“I’m bowling at about 85-90 per cent – I just wanted to ease into it – so far so good.
“It’s good to contribute to the team … and for me, it’s just about playing and building up each game.”
Opener Conor McInerney made 63 off 146 balls and Sayers (56) scored the first half-century of his first-class career to frustrate the home side.
But Pattinson, targeting a Test return in next year’s Ashes series, was the story of the day.
He claimed the prized wicket of South Australian danger man Callum Ferguson (17) before lunch with a searing quicker ball that clattered into his off stump.
The 28-year-old then dismissed SA skipper Jake Lehmann (22) and the in-form Tom Cooper for a duck in an encouraging first step in his long journey back to the Test side.
“Obviously, I’d like to play in the Ashes … everything I do isn’t planned for that. It’s just that I’d like to be involved,” Pattinson said.
“It’s just about getting performances on the board now to get selected … I’m trying not to think too far ahead.”
Melbourne’s volatile spring weather might be a factor on Tuesday.
Rain and thunderstorms are forecast with the top-of-the-table Vics chasing a third-outright win in a row on a final-day pitch.
Victoria were bowled out on Monday for 351 with a first-innings lead of 107 just 20 minutes after the resumption of play.
Handscomb (123 off 216 balls) turned the match in his side’s favour with a gutsy century but he was dismissed on Monday morning off the first ball he faced .